The Sacred Pathway of the Activist (Part 6)
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Sword4Sail and is Part 6 in the Sacred Pathways of Walking With God.
The Activist: Loving God through Confrontation
Would you quit your comfortable, rewarding job in the country to minister to teenage drug addicts in the city? That’s what David Wilkerson did as detailed in his book, The Cross and the Switchblade. For some, this challenge is intimidating or uninviting. But for others, it makes their hearts jump with yearning. As described in Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, those with the Activist temperament love God by, “Standing up for righteousness in hostile places (Thomas 128).”
We can learn a lot about the “blessings and pitfalls” of the activist temperament from Biblical characters like Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Habakkuk. Moses started with killing an Egyptian, rescuing young women from bullying shepherds, and graduated to a confrontation with the Pharaoh. At first, Moses questioned his ability to do the job, but God said it didn’t matter who he sent, what mattered was the sender. But after the Israelites gained freedom, Moses, like Elijah, felt like it was just he and God vs. the world. Elijah was courageous in his confrontation with Ahab and the prophets of Baal, but thought he was the only true prophet. God reassured him seven thousand others were still true to the faith (1 Kings 19:18). He displays the classic symptoms of the activist: isolation and exhaustion.
Elisha replaced Elijah and confronted future-king Hazael. He saw the harm Hazael would do and wept over it, but was not consumed by it (2 Kings 8:11-13). He knew that we need to leave the results of what God has called us to do to God and his timing. Otherwise, we may be like Habakkuk and think we are more concerned about justice than God is. Prayer becomes accusing like in Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?… Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.” We must remember we see with a finite eye, but God sees all. In 2 Cor 5:7 we are reminded we “live by faith, not by sight.”
Confrontation – a hatred for evil – is the mark of the activist. Thomas tells the story of a pastor who went around challenging all pastors in the area who took their kids to see a certain movie that had swearing it in. The activist pastor asked the others if he could read a list of all the swear words in the movie condensed into one minute of the church service. The pastors refused, to which the activist replied, “How dare you take your kids to hear filth you wouldn’t want the members of your congregation to hear… do we really hate evil or are we just content to put up with it(132)?”
This pastor was not very popular among Christians, because if he saw evil, he would confront it. Activists are spiritually nourished through the battle. Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day. It was the will of his Father. Working out justice and righteousness in the church and society as a way of loving God brings fulfillment, thanksgiving, and a deeper sense of intimacy with God rather than exhaustion, anger, and self-righteousness. But the activist must learn to “crucify” any desire to be liked and accepted; Jesus warns us, “All men will hate you because of me (Mark 13:13).” We are comforted with the promise, “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Activism can take many forms such as writing books, working for social reform, and actively confronting evil. And you don’t just have to protest – you can provide a Godly alternative. Thomas suggests, “Instead of writing letters to Congress, Christians can run for Congress. Instead of merely protesting immorality in entertainment, Christians can become part of the entertainment industry (138).” Activism involves stepping out on a limb and seeing God act in mighty ways.
Activists have tremendous potential to exhibit the power of prayer. I’ve done this method many times: a prayer walk. You walk in a certain area and pray for the people around you – on a campus, at a grocery store, by a government building, at a sports game. Sometimes processions can be planned where Christians gather to march in celebration of Jesus. Intercession can be made with a newspaper in hand, a map on the table, or specific requests from missionaries. Thomas writes, “Hatred for sin can become hatred for people if activists become tired and spiritually depleted (140).” Apathy can be taken personally and others become alienated if communication with God through prayer is not constant.
Even when a person is laboring for righteousness they are still susceptible to temptation. You can become judgmental of sinners when you should be compassionate. Or you may start to look down on others who have different spiritual gifts than you and are non-confrontational. This attitude of elitism and resentment does not respect the variety God has created among the body of believers. An activist can become preoccupied with activity and statistics and neglect prayer, communication with God. And you cannot use social activism to earn favor with God or as an excuse to ignore personal sanctity. Hypocrites are rarely listened to.
Thomas also warns of the dangers of sexual sin coupled with ambition. Ambition is often rooted in a fight for control and against powerlessness. Selfishness combines for a lack of care towards those in the way, and invites the seeds of sexual lust. Although this is predominately found to be the case with men, activist women are not exempt, or if the husband is an activist, they need to let others hold them accountable.
Do you only tolerate evil, or do you hate it? Do you stand up for justice? Do you seek God’s face and say “not my will but yours be done?” If not, could you start? Not everyone is to be an activist, but everyone is to become more like Christ and seek to have and know the heart of God. Try one of the forms of activism or prayer this next month. And come back next week to learn about the spiritual temperament of the Caregiver.
Are you an Activist?
Score this series of statements on a scale of 1-5. 1 is not true at all and 5 is very true. Any score of 15 or higher indicates a tendency toward this temperament. Keep track of your scores to complete a spiritual profile later.
1. I feel closest to God when I am cooperating with him in standing up for his justice.
2. I get very frustrated if I see apathetic Christians who don’t become active. I want to drop everything I’m doing and help the church overcome apathy.
3. The terms courageous confrontation and social activism are very appealing to me.
4. Activities such as confronting a social evil, attending a meeting of the local school board to challenge the new curriculum, and volunteering on a political campaign are important to me.
5. Franky Shaeffer’s A Time for Anger would be an important book for me to read. (A book about society’s claim to let everyone have a voice but squashing that of the Christian.)
6. I would rather stand in the rain for an hour to confront evil than sit in a room by myself for an hour and pray, take a walk through the woods, or spend an hour reading a book.