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Living to Please the Lord

Category Articles
Date June 17, 2004

Ian Hamilton (Cambridge)

Peter Marshall was a Scotsman who became the Chaplain to the United States Senate in the late 1940’s. He wrote some words that speak powerfully to our morally decaying society and to an evangelical Christianity that has its focus in all the wrong places.

"The modern challenge to motherhood is the eternal challenge -that of being a godly woman. The very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other type of women: beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career women, talented women, divorced women. But so seldom do we hear of a godly woman – or of a godly man either, for that matter. I believe women come nearer to fulfilling their God given function in the home than anywhere else. It is a much nobler thing to be a good wife, than to be Miss America. It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realms of morals to be old fashioned, than to be ultra-modern. The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct." (Peter Marshall, former Chaplain to the United States Senate).

I wonder how you are reacting to these words? You could tell a lot about the state of your spiritual life, I think, by your reaction to Marshall’s analysis. Christian virtue is rarely eclipsed overnight. Usually it is eviscerated by the slow process of being conformed to the prevailing pattern of the age. If you live in the midst of squalor, and everyone around you sees the squalor as normal, it takes unyielding courage and conviction to stand against the squalor and resist its embrace. Too often today, evangelicalism seeks to dress itself in the world’s clothes, in the hope that it might thereby gain a hearing for the gospel. Now it is true that Christians are to become "all things to all men, so that by all means we might save some." But in no sense does this mean that we are to share the world’s values and lifestyle. Consider our Lord Jesus Christ. He exemplified what it means to identify with this fallen, sinful world: "And the Word became flesh." He shared the frailty and vulnerability of our humanity. He entered into the darkness of our sinful predicament. And yet, he remained "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners." He shared our condition, but not our sin. Indeed, he never once temporised, or tried to hide the absolute moral standards of God from sinners. What he said was given authority by who and what he was.

We live in an age that is seeking, willfully, to subvert the biblical foundations of society. At the heart of those biblical foundations are the God-ordained roles of Godly male headship, and Godly female submission. It is tragically true, that many men, Christian men, have abdicated their God-ordained calling in their homes and made it difficult for their wives lovingly to submit to their headship. Nothing would more persuade a Christian woman to rise to her God-ordained calling, than having a husband who loves her as Christ loves the church, who loves her children, and who faithfully, gently and unyieldingly, leads the family in making God’s word and not the world’s enticements, the pattern of life.

It may well be costly, indeed it certainly will be costly, but Christians must "dare to be different." First, of course, for God’s honour and glory. Second, for the good of our own souls: "do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." But thirdly, if we do not dare to be different (i.e. live the values of God’s word), then our evangelical testimony will be little more than hollow, pathetic words that the world will mock and ignore.

I have recently finished reading Brian Moynihan’s biography of William Tyndale. My abiding impression of this fine work is that Tyndale, and others like him (e.g. John Frith) dared to be different. They refused to fit in with the prevailing ethos and expectations of their society. It cost them their lives, but the impact of their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel was enormous. Dare to be different. Not to draw attention to yourself. Not to show your Christian brothers how "Reformed" you are. Dare to be different because the gospel of your Saviour has brought you into the ethic of a better world, whose King is the Lord God Almighty. Live to please him.

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