Wednesday, 17 August 2011

a considered opinion?

I have been asked to preach in October on a particular controversial topic; Christian Zionism! The request came with a plea to present a 'considered opinion'. That gives me my title for the session; "Christian Zionism: a considered opinion". I am excited by this title, especially the second half of it.

More than 30 years ago I was spending 6 months in an Asian country. The country had a border with a much smaller nation which was ruled by a fierce anti-Christian government. Two young teenagers from the smaller country were pursuing their education in the larger country and had come to a clear faith in Christ; they had been baptised, at their request. Myself, 2 other English preachers, a long term missionary and the two teenagers spent the night in a small wooden house. When the 'boys' had gone to bed the missionary was very subdued. She said "when it is discovered what these boys have done, they will be poisoned by their families."

I had a very broken night. The question that kept me awake was a simple one; "is what I am preaching worth these two fine young men dying for?" I had an old friend who used to say "a man is not a man until he knows what he is ready to die for". I could have given a list of 'Bible truths' that I was willing to die for, but how many of those truth was I willing to let someone else die for?

I have a somewhat deserved reputation for being pedantic; I think truth is important and ought to be precise. I probably have a reputation for having 'opinions' too, but I endeavour to keep my opinions in two water-tight compartments. There are those which are really a 'best fit' hypothesis to some Bible theme. I am willing to share those opinions with you if you ask me, but I have another list of 'opinions' I am ready to die for. More... I have some convictions which are so strong, and in my view so crucial, that I preach them without fear or favour, even though I know the repercussions are such that anyone believing them may have to put their own life on the line too.

If any of my hearers ever have to make that choice I would want to be sure they were laying down their lives for Bible truths which were clear and fundamental and significant and not something which was my own 'best fit' theology.

Blaise Pascal is reputed to have coined the phrase;
"In essentials, unity.

In non-essentials, liberty.

And in all things, charity."

It is a good motto for a preacher. There are issues where a man or woman will have cause to quote Luther's famous words;
"My conscience is subject to the word of God.

Here I stand. I can do no other".
but there are times too when in honesty and humility a preacher will need to end his session with the words;
"...this is my considered opinion."

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