We Must Act While We Still Can

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in Decision Magazine on June 14, 2017.

It was true before the U.S. presidential election and it remains true today: The problems we face are not just political and cultural; at their core, they are spiritual. I believe we received a reprieve from our worsening cultural condition by avoiding the election of Hillary Clinton. With the election of Donald Trump, we may have a window of opportunity. But this window will not be open long. God certainly hasn’t placed us here at this time in history to sit passively on the sidelines hoping that things will change. He has given us the opportunity to act while we still have the freedom to do so.

To see real change, we must do three things:

Keep praying. In the book of Nehemiah, when the prophet was confronted with an obstacle or with opposition, he prayed. Remember what Jesus said when he told the parable of the persistent widow? “Pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Keep building. We know that Nehemiah not only prayed—he acted: “So we built the wall … for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).

Keep standing. The book of Galatians tells us: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

These three are essential. First, Christians must pray. We know this, but we often find it hard to practice and remain disciplined. But prayer is powerful! We should stop throughout the day as we are confronted with the issues of life, including matters of public engagement, to pray for direction and the success of our efforts. Prayer activates work in the spiritual realms and brings us personal peace in the process.

Second, we must build. We must adhere to the truth, and see it implemented in law and policy. When we have a vision inspired through our time with God, and we set our face to that task, we spend less time focused on the obstacles and opposition, and before we know it, we accomplish our task.

Such willing Christians are out there. They believe in the truth that the Bible teaches. But they may not feel fully comfortable defending and advocating for that truth. They may be wondering: Should I stay away from what people are calling “political” in church? No. Long before these issues were deemed political, they were clearly understood to be moral and spiritual issues. We must engage, for the good of ourselves, our families, our countries and God’s Kingdom.

Am I saying we need to fully deluge church sanctuaries with candidate endorsement signs and campaign slogans? No. Indeed, Christians will often differ on certain policies and candidates. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But on certain issues—those on which the Bible is clear and our faith clearly holds to—there can be no dispute among Christians. Respect for human life, inside and outside the womb, is one such issue.

Human sexuality is another spiritual issue that has been made political, but we must stand for Biblical and Christian sexual ethics no matter how unpopular they become. God defines marriage. He says it is between a man and a woman. No court or politician can change this truth about marriage.

Third, we must keep standing. Adherence to the truth no matter the controversy is what is needed now for us to make progress as nations. If people want to call us political, let them. As Christians, we will hold to the truth no matter the cost. Indeed, we should count such trials to be blessings for the strengthening of our character (James 1:2-4).

In his book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews recounts the story of a 34-year-old schoolteacher, Joshua Chamberlain. A professor of rhetoric, Chamberlain found himself as a colonel in the Union Army on July 2, 1863, on a hillside in Gettysburg, Pa. He and his 300 men of the 20th Maine Regiment stood behind a stone wall at the far left edge of a group of 80,000 men strung out in a line across fields and hills. Chamberlain was ordered to hold the line at all costs. If the Confederates were to gain the high ground, the Union Army would be quickly defeated.

Five times, the Confederates charged. Five times, Chamberlain’s men held their ground.

But after the fifth charge, Chamberlain had only 80 men remaining. There were no reinforcements who could come to their aid. They were out of ammo, and as Chamberlain was assessing the situation, a scout shouted that the rebels were forming up to make another charge. Chamberlain knew his men could not hold the line again. As Andrews describes it:

“Chamberlain stepped to the top of the wall in full view, crossing his arms and staring down at the advancing enemy. … [He] stood there for a moment, deep in thought, quickly sorting the situation. We can’t retreat, he thought. We can’t stay here. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act. He turned his back on the advancing rebels, looked down at his men and said, ‘Fix bayonets!’ At first, no one moved. They just stared at him with their mouths open. “Fix your bayonets now!” he commanded again. …

“Then, turning, the colonel pointed his sword directly downhill. Facing overwhelming odds, Chamberlain slashed his blade through the air and … roared, ‘Charge! Charge! Charge!’”

Chamberlain’s remaining men followed their leader, yelling “Charge!” as they tumbled over the wall. When the Confederate troops saw Chamberlain and his men charging down the hill, they turned and ran. Many threw down loaded weapons, thinking Chamberlain and his men must have been reinforced. Within minutes—without any ammunition—Chamberlain’s 80 men captured more than 400 Confederate soldiers.

Chamberlain had a perspective of what was truly at stake. Regardless of the significance of the obstacles and the overwhelming opposition, he chose to persist. That persistence, that choice to act, determined the outcome of a battle, which determined the outcome of a war, which determined the destiny of a nation.

If you know Him—if Jesus is your Savior—your life has a purpose. Your persistence and your obedience to God matters. Your life matters.

May we never fail to stand, but instead be like those persistent wall builders in the book of Nehemiah, despite being mocked (Nehemiah 4:1-3), maligned (Nehemiah 2:19) and facing severe opposition (Nehemiah 4:11). When we see how the same tactics used today were used against the Jews in Old Testament Israel, we can know to expect them. When we are prepared for them, we can do a better job of standing, in unity (Nehemiah 4:20), keeping our gaze on the task set before us.

When asked to divert from his task, Nehemiah responds by saying: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Indeed. May we similarly keep our gaze fixed upon King Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), while we continue engaging our country and our culture with Biblical and Christian truth—the only thing that can ultimately transform a nation.

May we continue to stand, for the blessing of ourselves, our families and our nations. This brings rejoicing (see Proverbs 11:10) and also glory to God: “For they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).

If more and more Christians see that we must engage on issues of Biblical and Christian truth for the good of our country, we will ultimately see lasting change for the better. This change takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. And elections of politicians who allow people of faith the freedom to work for this change are only one step in the process. We must now take the next steps of intensified prayer and focused rebuilding combined with a resolution to stand firm—no matter what!