On Wednesday night I sang one of my favourite hymns during the William Still Memorial Exposition evening.
Frederick W Faber’s Workman of God! is wonderful. (You can read about Faber here and here – an interesting 19thC Christian.) There are several reasons why this hymn is so special for me. It contains a line that I use whenever trying to justify Christian morality (For right is right, since God is God). But my favourite four line stanza is this one:
Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee his road.
I have heard very few sermons on this theme, or sermons that even touch on it. Yet, the remarkable thing is that Faber wrote these words when forms of Christianity were a dominant cultural force. I wonder what exactly he had in mind, and I wonder how he imagined losing with God. There is so much being written about the historical Jesus these days – I hope that Christians realise that the historical Jesus won the world through shame and scorn, and the risen Jesus calls us to do the same today.
John Piper gave the lecture or sermon on Wednesday evening. It was the first time I’d heard him speak. He was engaging, passionate, and encouraging. His texts were 2Tim4:3 and Matt 10:24-33, and his main point was this – Fear not, they can only kill you!
Among many side remarks, Piper commented on the perception of Christianity in the non-Western world. Christianity is equated with the dominant cultural norms of America and Europe – they are the ‘Christian’ areas of the world, and everything done is therefore done in the name of Christianity. Most Christians in the West cringe at this perception. How are we to break it? How can we show that Christians are really part of a counter-cultural movement? Piper made this suggestion: perhaps only when Christians start getting arrested for doing good and speaking for the sake of the gospel will people understand Christianity distinct from popular cultural perceptions.
Fear not, they can only arrest you or kill you!, might need to be the rallying call if the church in Europe and America is to see revival and survival in the 21stC.