Do you know that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t nearly as popular in his day as he is now? His assassination obviously garnered both sympathy and attention, and as the civil rights movement progressed and society has become more pro-equality*, so its natural (and appropriate) to honor him as the leader that he was. During his life though, he wasn’t given the honor he deserved, and partially because his message required change. After years of struggle, he started to have the understanding that his greatest enemy wasn’t those that were against him, but rather those that were neither strongly for or against him. In his famous “Letter from a Birmingham jail,” he speaks of this.
Here is a quote from it:
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion is that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride towards freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Planner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until “a more convenient season.”
Wow. Powerful words echoed by a powerful testimony.
Jesus perfectly illustrates this as well…
He is clearly venerated today, however during his day he had many enemies, and at the end he almost had nothing but enemies (besides John, Mary, and a few other women). Twice we are shown how quickly people can turn on someone: once when he gave out free food and fish, and second when he entered Jerusalem the week of Passover (and oh yeah: again when he read from the scroll in Isaiah in the beginning of his ministry). In each situation, the majority were pleased and honored him because he delivered to them what they wanted. However, each three groups reversed course when he showed them a side of himself they didn’t like. Jesus wasn’t dismayed by this though; as “he knew what was in the hearts of men”. Also in each of these situations, a small remnant still stayed with him despite the difficulty with his words/actions.
Carrying the metaphor of MLK, we can call this remnant the “christian extreme,” and the majority would be the “christian moderate.” The christian moderate (or moderate christian) can be the full-stop-endgame to a fresh move of the Spirit. This is surely what Jesus encountered when he told one of his most faithful disciples that he was inspired by Satan (Peter in Matthew 16).
This is still true today.
There are times in journeying with Jesus in which he may take you to places that even other believers don’t understand or disagree with. Don’t let them dissuade you!** As illustrated well in the book God’s Favorite Place by Frank Viola, well-meaning people can be the worst roadblocks to Gods best. The verse in Hebrews comes to mind: “…the sin that so easily entangles…” For a follower of Christ, sometimes pursuing “good” instead of “Life” is the sin that so easily entangles, because it is so deceiving and distracting.
A few important reminders: it is tempting to adopt an “us/them” dichotomy in your mind when considering this concept. This can easily lead into thoughts of self-righteousness as well as being judgmental in an ungodly way. We must always remember that we are products of our environment as well as the time we are in, and all of these things are chosen and led by God, not us. We must have the attitude of “but for the grace of God go I.” Also, all of us have inside us the tendency towards compromise and being “moderately for Jesus,” so this is not just a problem “out there with them”, its also inside our our hearts/minds as well. Furthermore, its highly likely the readers of this blog have many loved ones that fall in this category, and we can never separate an issue from the individual people the issue applies to.
I leave you with a song from Josh Garrels to encourage you:
Ever forward ya’ll
*Yes, there is still a long way to go; but that’s not the focus of this post.
**Ahh, but even this requires discernment, as sometimes the spirit will harness other believers to retrieve us if we have wandered away from the flock on our own instead of at the shepherds leading…