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“On The Other Hand?” Mark 13:9-13 Key verse(s) 13:“‘All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.’”


Often times what determines whether or not we are standing tall in this life is measured by the depth of our convictions. There was a time not so long ago when a man was measured by his conviction. Was he willing to stand up for what he believed in no matter what? Could he follow through on the basic tenets that govern life and his relationships with others? Or, was he inclined to waver, even crack at the slightest challenge to what he believed?


Men and women who live by conviction are rapidly becoming a rare commodity in today’s society, a society that often paints the convicted as zealots, even bigots for not accepting the viewpoints of others despite the fact that these viewpoints conflict with the principles they hold dear. We are rapidly becoming a society governed by preference as opposed to conviction. Standing tall is fine as long as you don’t cast a shadow on another man’s space.


Its fine to hold a preference. That society can tolerate. A preference is something that governs one’s life and may be the cause of one giving one’s entire life and fortune to it. We teach them to our children and over time they become very strong beliefs. But, importantly, a preference is something that can be changed under the right circumstances. Whether that be peer or family pressure, lawsuits, the threat of jail or death, a preference is never absolute. Unlike a preference, however, a conviction is something that cannot change since it is not “founded in a sense of fairness” or dependent upon circumstance. Convictions are purposed in the heart and cannot be changed (cf. Daniel 1, 2-3). Should they be assailed and lost, sin is apparent, not choice.


We live in a society that is captivated with the idea of choices. While preferences are fine since they are nothing more than what we might believe at the moment, convictions are often seen as a bias since they will not conform to change as do simple beliefs. Having convictions in a society that has elevated choice and change to a godhead, is seen as backward, even antagonistic to the very fabric of that which weaves a society together––fairness and tolerance.


Tevye, the Jewish dairy farmer in the musical Fiddler on the Roof, lives with his wife and five daughters in czarist Russia. Change is taking place all around him and the new patterns are nowhere more obvious to Tevye than in the relationship between the sexes. First, one of his daughters announces that she and a young tailor have pledged themselves to each other, even though Tevye had already promised her to the village butcher, a widower. Initially Tevye will not hear of his daughter’s plans, but he finally has an argument with himself and decides to give in to the young lovers’ wishes. A second daughter also chooses the man she wants to marry: An idealist revolutionary. Tevye is rather fond of him, and, after another argument with himself, he again concedes to the changing times.


A while later, Tevye’s third daughter wishes to marry. She has fallen in love with a young Gentile. This violates Tevye’s deepest religious convictions: It is unthinkable that one of his daughters would marry outside the faith. Once again, he has an argument with himself. He knows that his daughter is deeply in love, and he does not want her to be unhappy. Still, he cannot deny his convictions. “How can I turn my back on my faith, my people?” he asks himself. “If I try and bend that far, I’ll break!” Tevye pauses and begins a response: “On the other hand...” He pauses again, and then he shouts: “No! There is no other hand!” (Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, pp. 123-124.)


“Standing firm to the end” is not something dependent upon what rests on the “other hand.” There is no “other hand” when it comes to our convictions about who Jesus is and what He means to us now and in eternity. You can believe anything you want about Jesus. Many people and religions do. They are blown back and forth by the winds of change and the pressures of social acceptance. Ultimately, however, unless you are convicted in your beliefs, so certain that no peer, family or social pressure can budge you from your obstinate faith, so deeply anchored in that hope that not even prison, pain or the possibility of death can wrench you free, you may be living with a preference and not a conviction. Standing firm, never giving up even when it seems that you might be the only one standing, the only head rising above the bowed shoulders of those whose beliefs are tossed about by every whim of society, may not be a popular lifestyle in today’s society. Nevertheless, as Tevye clearly surmised, there is “no other hand.” This isn’t a matter of choice.

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