Covenant always involves the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:18). Jesus knew it. Paul knew it. Peter knew it. Saint Ignatius in the Colosseum knew it.
The worship service I attend this Sunday will serve cute little plastic grape juice cups and pita bread shards from gold-plated dishes in broad daylight. But before Constantine, Christians huddled in the dark catacombs of Rabat, Malta, and passed around a cup that sealed each man's fate.
On November 20, nearly 150 men once again threw their lots together, this time in a manifesto called the "Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience." Drafted by Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, Dr. Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, and Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, and signed by an interdenominational array of church leaders (including WORLD's Joel Belz and Marvin Olasky), subscribing as individuals, it is a line in the sand putting the government on notice of their intent to resist further encroachment on the sanctity of life, marriage, and liberty:
"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
That sounds like civil disobedience is a real possibility. Which means that jail time is a real possibility. The declaration mentions "costly grace"---and the costs of this public stand may be dear indeed. One is reminded of the man who from prison penned in his opening paragraph to The Cost of Discipleship: "We are fighting today for costly grace" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). One is reminded of King David, who said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord that cost me nothing" (2 Samuel 24:24). Covenant may once more come to mean the shedding of blood.
The declaration continues:
"Throughout the centuries, Christians have taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted but sometimes required. . . . [W]e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, or euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnership, treat them as marriage or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. . . ."
This is a very serious development indeed. But of course, there are precedents:
"But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with suffering, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plunder of your property . . ." (Hebrews 10:32-34).
"You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Hebrews 12:4).
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