Summary: The people of God are engaged in a great battle. If we will engage the enemy and advance the cause of Christ, we need to heed the commands issued in this text.
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
The Christian Faith is a woman’s religion; and I’m glad this is so! Historically, women were excluded from religion. In the pagan religions extant at the time the Master presented Himself as a sacrifice for sinful people, women might be used as religious accoutrements in what was called worship, but they really did not have a part in religious exercise. In the various non-Christian religions in this day, women are seen as inferior and unworthy of having a voice in conduct of religious exercise. Jesus, however, invited women to share in both the worship and the rewards of the Faith.
During the past several decades, however, the Christian Faith has been feminised. The churches are frequently devoid of young men. Increasingly, the churches of North America are taking on the appearance of British congregations. A few older women are scattered throughout the pews as an aging pastor drones on about some inconsequential matter. Men have increasingly withdrawn from active participation in the Faith—they appear leery either of promoting the Faith or of openly practising the Faith.
The transformation among the churches during the past several decades was preceded by women demanding a greater role in the conduct of worship; and as their demands were met they indelibly stamped the face of the Faith with their own signature characteristics. Yet, when we read the accounts of the Master, He seems virile, manly, exhibiting the attributes esteemed by all. The Master does not appear as a Casper Milquetoast character; rather, He presents Himself as strong, resolute, capable.
To be certain, Jesus could be compassionate and gentle. You will recall that on coming ashore on one occasion, “He had compassion on [the crowds], because they were like sheep without a shepherd” [MARK 6:34]. He responded by teaching them, knowing that their great need was to hear the voice of the Living God. When it grew late, and the people had listened all day without eating, He instructed His disciples to feed them [see MARK 6:35-44].
Yet, He could be forthright, abrupt, blunt. He did not accept the distortion of religious people who sought to advance their own private agendas; and He never minced words when speaking to those who thought they could be casual about following Him. Jesus cannot be said to have pandered to the expectations of the throngs crowding about Him. Recall the exchange between the Master and several who thought they wanted to follow Him. “As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” [LUKE 9:57-62].
“I’ll follow you anywhere, Jesus,” the young man said.
“Are you quite certain about that? What will you sacrifice in order to stand with me?”
“Follow Me,” He commanded another.
“Let me arrange my life to satisfy my family; then I’ll follow you, Jesus.”
“Then, I’m not first in your life. You cannot be My disciple.”
“Unlike others, I’ll follow you, Jesus” the man affirmed. “Only let me arrange my life to my satisfaction.”
“You cannot be My disciple while pining for what might have been.”
The Master never attempted to make the Faith a non-threatening, non-demanding excursion into mere religious exercise. MATTHEW 10:16-25 records the cautionary words delivered to the disciples He was about to send out into service in His Name. His words seem strange to modern adherents; yet they echo through the ages down to this very day. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.