What Would You Take a Bullet For?
On September 28, a Christian lawyer and preacher named Edwin Paul, his wife Ruby and their 5 children aged 6 to 17 were shot and killed in Abbotabad, a town in northwestern Pakistan. They were murdered by a group of radical Muslims because they were Christians and because Edwin had been speaking out to defend other Christians in the area. Paul had earlier be warned to give up his Christian faith; he was told “we know how to throw out Christians, we will not allow even a single Christian to live here.” Two days later, the entire Paul family was dead. May God bless their family and friends who grieve for their loss.
What we have done in the place of the Paul family when told to give up their Christian beliefs “or else?” The fact is, we don’t know. Until we are placed in that kind of a situation, we have no idea what we would do. I would like to think that we would all listen to the words of Jesus, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10). Faith in God and commitment to the cross of Christ are things important enough for which to die.
There are hills that are important enough to die on. But then, there are some hills that aren't. What if the question had been a bit different? What if the group with the rifles that barged into their house to threaten their lives had asked other questions--
- Do you have one or multiple cups in your communion?
- Do you think it’s OK for Christians to drink alcohol?
- Do you believe in a pre, mid or post-tribulation rapture?
- Do you sing praises to God with instrumentals or a cappella?
- Do you preach wearing liturgical robes or in a suit-and-tie?
OK, I definitely WOULD NOT take a bullet for any position on those questions. Don't get me wrong; I have answers for all of those questions. But put a gun to my head and I'll put one of those "In case of rapture, this car will be unoccupied" bumper stickers on my car. Put a gun to my head and demand I sing "The Old Rugged Cross" accompanied by a piano, and I'll ask, "What key would you like?" Put a gun to my head and I’ll wear either a liturgical robes or a suit and tie (which I consider to be the same thing anyway). But put a gun to my head and ask, if I believe in Jesus, then with God as my strength, I'll take that bullet (at least I hope I would). Some things are worth dying for... and some things aren't!
I have to wonder if the list of things really worth dying for is really all that different from the list of things worth dividing Christian fellowship over? I mean, if you wouldn't take a bullet for your position on an issue, then is that issue really important enough to harm the body of Christ over? I wonder.
As Paul closes Galatians 6 (our reading for today), he says something that we need to hear. He has written to churches torn apart by all manner of issues relating to Jewish tradition and ritual. Paul closes the letter in his own handwriting by says this—
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. (Galatians 6:14–15)
The issues over which the Judaizers were stirring up the church were not part of the gospel. Paul insists that they actually mean nothing at all. Having the right position issues that aren’t worth dying for means nothing. The only thing we can boast in, the only thing worth dying for, is the cross of Jesus and becoming a new creation because of the cross. That’s something worth dying for.