Sunday, September 19

A Sunday to Consider our Leaders

No, not our political leaders, but the great men and women of our Christian heritage: the Christian leaders of the past.
Faith Of Our Fathers
Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children's fate.
If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
Mankind shall then be truly free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

--Words by Frederick William Faber

The featured sermon is another one from Frederic Martin of the Evangelical Free Church of Bemidji, MN, called "Consider Their Lives; Imitate Their Faith". The text is Hebrews 13:7-8:
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

From the sermon:
That is a simple instruction, isn't it? We should remember our leaders, think about what they accomplished in life, and then imitate their faith. And why should we do that? Because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Just as the living Christ worked in those who have gone before us and just as he used them to spread his gospel and his glory, so he will do the same in and through us. That's the promise. So God wants us to think about them and the example that they set for us so that we will be encouraged and inspired in our Christian lives.

Remember your leaders. Consider their lives; imitate their faith.

There is an unspoken assumption behind that instruction. That assumption is that we know who the great Christian leaders of the past were. How can you imitate someone about whom you know nothing? The assumption behind that instruction is that you and I know something about the history of God's church.

Of course, many of us don't know much about the history of the church, and what we do know doesn't really sound much like something to be proud of, or something to emulate.
The problem is compounded because what little we do know about church history is mostly negative. How many times have you heard people refer to the terrible things that the church did during the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition? In our current cultural climate those two events are often cited in order to clinch the argument that throughout history the Christian church has been a continual source of oppression and cruelty.

How do we respond to an accusation like that? I have three responses to that charge. First, how many people really know much about the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition? Could it be that the accusations about them are the kind of things that grow in horror with each retelling until they almost reach mythic proportions? Before you accept those accusations at full strength, be sure that you know what actually took place in the Crusades and in the Spanish Inquisition. You might just be surprised.

Second, let's readily confess that believers in Christ and the church that bears his name have not always practiced what Jesus teaches. Confession is a Christian discipline and virtue, and we should be more than ready to acknowledge the faults of the Christians who have gone before us and to admit our own failings as well. Every human cause has produced leaders and gathered followers whose zeal has sometime overshadowed wisdom. That's true of every human endeavor, and Christianity has not been immune to such frailty. We must not be reluctant to admit it.

But there is a third thing that we need to do or rather not do. We should not allow the mistakes of the past--as grievous as some of them were--to shame us, intimidate us, and paralyze us as Christians. I strongly believe that the last two thousand years of human history demonstrate the extraordinary good that has come to the world because of the Christian faith. We need to know about that good. You and I need to become acquainted with the great Christians of the past.

We need to consider their lives and imitate their faith.

Read the rest.

And of course, you can consider the life of one the great Christians of the past here.