Rowing against the (Main)Stream

By David M. McNabb

It is a fundamental part of human nature to want to be accepted. Equal­ly fundamental is people’s desire for others to share in their activities and opin­ions. No subject more reflects this basic human characteristic than that of religion.

There is nothing more personal than one’s religious beliefs. It is a tremendous blessing to find others who share your faith. Not only so, but it also acts as a validation of your beliefs. If others agree with you, it may mean that you are right; as one tobacco company proved with the advertisement: “50 million cigarette smokers can’t be wrong.” (Of course they could be, and indeed they were, but it sure sounded good to know they weren’t alone.)

It would appear that God is not only quite aware of the human need to congregate with like-minded believers, but that He is its cause. That is why He commanded by His servant Paul, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of our­selves together, as the manner of some is; but ex­horting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:23-25).

And so it is. Nevertheless, while we inherently desire to find favor with our fellow man, God has called us, as Christians, to be different. We are exhorted to forsake the mainstream and be a peculiar people for His name’s sake. This is well illustrated by the words of Jesus, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matt. 7:13).

Throughout the ages, God has called upon men and women to stand up and stand out for Him. He told Abram to leave his country, his kindred, and even his father’s house because of the idolatry which permeated that society. He forbad Israel from making any graven images to be used in worship, a virtually universal practice outside of God’s chosen people. He called out Moses to defy Pharaoh and lead the Israelites to freedom, while neither Pharaoh nor the Israelites believed he was sent. And many other biblical examples can be found of the faithful men and women of God who bucked the trend to do what was right.

Not the least of which is Jesus Himself. He, and a small band of His disciples, preached the truth of God’s word in the face of the contemporary mainstream. The Jewish leadership of His day sought every possible way to label Him a cult leader, discredit His teachings, and render Him ineffective. Jesus knew that there would be certain circles in which He would have little or no effect. He said, “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark 6:4). His teachings were out of step with mainstream thinking. He knew it, and He was not going to compromise the truth to win the multitude.

Today, especially due to the overwhelming influence of political correctness, society demands that everyone becomes a part of the mainstream. If you refuse to become part of a homo­genous society, you are labeled a radical: a fanatic. Since we are conditioned to value society’s acceptance of us, the very thought of rejection be­comes unbearable to us, and we seek a way to present our beliefs in a less objectionable manner.

We are not, however, called to be accepted by society. Many fundamental biblical truths fly in the face of what is popular. We are called to be separate. If one desire’s to be accepted of God, then one must consider Paul’s words, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12)

Peter likewise exhorted us, saying, “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteous­ness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:19-24).

It is a small thing when it seems as though all are against you, both of unbelievers and - yes - of believers as well. The immutable God of heaven shall go with you; He will not fail you, nor forsake you: be strong and of good courage, fear not, neither be dismayed. Amen.