Summary: How believers fearlessly face persecution.
I’ve been reading a book by an agnostic whose previous book chronicled his project to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. In his latest book he describes his attempt to live according to the Bible. To do so, he had to read it, and he admits, even as one with very little faith: “This is the book of books...no one ever was burned at the stake for translating the encyclopedia.”
Taking a stand for our faith in Christ can involve real sacrifice. In Saudi Arabia recently a teenage girl was killed by her father for converting to Christianity. Last month in Bolivia a minister was shot and killed by members of the military. In India, Hindu extremists attacked members of a Christian church during their worship. In China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan church leaders are being imprisoned.
Paul wants us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ. This is a charge similar to Ephesians 4:1, “Walk worthy of the professions to which you’ve been called.” This involves leaning on Jesus for support, relying on Him to get us through life’s tough times.
The word “conduct” has social implications; it’s the Greek word politeus, where we get our word “politics”. The verb indicates a civic duty to active in one’s community. Paul is stating that our faith needs to be public. We’re not secret believers, even in the face of persecution. We have responsibilities as citizens of Heaven--a high calling. We govern ourselves by the Gospel, our highest authority.
We’re to “stand firm in one spirit.” Paul urges us to maintain a united front. This phrase was used to describe soldiers remaining at their posts, who refuse to be deterred from their duty. This we do together, with a unity of purpose, as a community of faith, even across denominational lines. We share a common goal, to present a living, spiritual alternative, an answer to the secularism of society.
When Christian beliefs are attacked, we don’t stand idly by. Bill Maher’s mockumentary “Religulous” attacks faith as idiotic nonsense and ridicules religion in a condescending manner. Many of the people Maher interviews are on the fringe of faith, the oddballs; in other words, those who pose an easy target. Maher said in a recent interview:
"I’m crusading against magical thinking in general. I honestly believe that mankind will not survive unless rationality is enshrined and magical thinking is marginalized. And, yes, I would put heaven and hell and demons and angels and praying in that category." Bill Maher despises religious faith of any kind. Garrison Keillor has observed, “There’s nobody as humorless as a devout atheist.”
Don’t be surprised if people who know of your faith ask you your opinion of the anti-religious opposition. We’re shouldn’t be passive when our faith is attacked; however let’s “stand firm,” without appearing hostile or aggravated. It’s been said, “Christians do not strive ‘against’ anybody, but for the faith” (Karl Barth).
We’re to “contend for the faith” (still in verse 27). Paul is speaking like a military commander, directing his troops to take up their battle positions and defend against enemy assault. We line up on the forward edge of the battle area. We defend against attacks on our faith by how we live and by what we say, “whatever happens”.