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A good witness

Who remembers Mary Whitehouse?

First, let’s remember our three principles:

Honour God: We must speak for Him. It is His world and so it makes sense that we, as His earthly representatives, can provide His point of view. To do so with authority we need to be sure what His view is, of course.

Reflect Jesus: The way that we present our views is so important. We need to be firm but fair, with a loving attitude, not a mocking one. Jesus must always be our model and, remember, he wasn’t all gentle meek and mild when dealing with hypocrites, neither should we.

Engage the Holy Spirit: This is how we can be sure what His views are and for the words and attitude to express them convincingly and effectively. We pray and we study the Word, rather than consulting the bloggers and studying the editorials!

With this in mind, let engagement begin. The current big issues are those of gender, race and religion and there’s going to be a measure of ‘damage limitation’ to deal with the usual Christian stereotypes and clumsiness. We must not compromise, even if we know that we’re going to be unpopular. We need to remember:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

On many issues they are not going to get us. That doesn’t make them right and us wrong, it simply means that we have a clash of Kingdoms here. Our job is to just state that clear fact, perhaps even quote the scripture above to them as our mandate. We operate with a Hebraic not a Greek mindset. This means that we are only truly going to communicate clearly when there’s a meeting of spirits as there will never be a full meeting of minds. This is because our source is the Bible and theirs isn’t. If they don’t accept the Bible then they are never going to accept our views. The only honest approach is to make this clear and to tell them that, as Christians, that is what defines us and we would not be true to ourselves if we compromised this position. You may even get grudging respect, perhaps more than you realise, as admitted by Daily Mail columnist, Sarah Vine, in a recent column (12th October 2016) about Christian campaigner Mary Whitehouse:

“When I was growing up in the Eighties, Mary Whitehouse was a figure of fun. With her horn-rimmed spectacles, stiff hair and collection of prim hats, she exemplified everything that was repressive about the old order. The more she carped on about traditional values and ‘dirty’ plays, the more we rolled our eyes and determined to ignore her. She was a joyless, stuffy, stick-in-the-mud suburban prude, whose very name became a byword for laughable, old-fashioned priggery — so much so that she even had a late-night BBC alternative comedy show, The Mary Whitehouse Experience, named after her. Just imagine the smug self- congratulation of whoever came up with that name. How clever! How ironic! How brilliantly post-modern! Now, it turns out, we were wrong, and Mary — object of a thousand cheap jokes — was right all along. Not only right, but perhaps even a visionary. Or, at least, so says the man who helped thwart her crusade against obscenity in the Eighties, Jeremy Hutchinson QC, now 101.

Hutchinson made a mockery of Whitehouse’s private prosecution against theatre director Michael Bogdanov, whose 1982 staging of Howard Brenton’s play The Romans In Britain depicted a violent male rape …”

 She summarises with this telling statement:

 “I’ll say. If we had been able to suspend just a smidgeon of our liberal snobbery towards Mary to take in even a tenth of what she was telling us, we might well be living in a better world today.

Perhaps if we had listened a little more and sniggered a little less, we might have understood that the boundaries she fought so hard to protect were not repressive — they were precious.”

 We need more Mary Whitehouses and less Tony Blairs! We need to speak out with authority and certainty, even on contentious topics. Unfortunately the time is fast approaching when plain speaking is going to get us in trouble, but this is not without precedent if we read the stories of the early Church, or the steadfast Christian believers throughout history who have spoken the truth whatever the personal outcome – prison, banishment, even death.

Pro-action compels us to proclaim the Gospel even when it is ‘out of season’. It is not about being popular or even relevant because the reality of sin in the human heart is not a trendy topic or one to attract an attentive audience at dinner parties or soirees. John Wesley was relentless in presenting this topic, as he traipsed around the English countryside on horseback, whether or not people wanted to hear it. Similarly Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones in the pulpit. Popularity just didn’t come into it, just following the call on one’s life. How many of us Christians have a similar call on our life but are not fulfilling it out of fear or impracticability? If we are pro-active we are out there creating the agenda, not responding to it along with countless others and therefore lost in the crush.

Initiatives like Healing on the Streets are out there in city and town centres regardless of weather or social climate, just proclaiming the message and promises of the Gospel.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

Out of season. That should be us. Unpredictable, just as our God is. We need to set the agenda, but not do things as the World does. People are tired of the same old things, you need a hook, preferably with good bait on it, to get noticed. If you are presenting a drama, stretch the boundaries a bit and make it interactive and engaging with the audience. It’s all about breaking out of Greek restrictions into Hebraic freedoms. It’s a general principal that goes far beyond even the scope of this book. If you are evangelising, stay clear of clichés and stereotypes, use tracts that are a bit more in tune with the times. If you are musical performers, don’t dress or act as those who wish to be worshipped. Allow sheer anointed talent to shine through, rather than the superficials. Let others see Jesus in you, as you engage with them, as you conduct yourself “when the camera is switched off”. Be consistent, be different. That’s what’s going to mark you out as a child of God, not the similarities with the others, but rather the differences. If you are on TV or radio, stick up for Biblical principles even if you get derided or even led to the exit. Remember, Jesus wasn’t popular with those who didn’t understand him, why should you try to be different?

Livin’ the life. Live in The Life … not the World.

This is an extract from the book, Livin’ the Life, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/livin-the-life-151-p.asp

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