Legendary country singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn passed away yesterday at the age of ninety. The Washington Post calls her “a trailblazer for other female country performers” and notes that she was the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s award for entertainer of the year.
Speaking of historic deaths, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on this day in 2011. In a 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, he offered this now-famous advice: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” He added: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
By following his “heart and intuition,” Jobs reinvented the music industry with the iPod and iTunes (Apple Music now has over one hundred million songs), reinvented personal communications with the iPhone, changed the way we consume media with the iPad, made computers accessible to non-technical people with Macintosh, changed the way software and hardware are sold, and built Apple from nothing into what is today the world’s most valuable company with a market cap of $2.347 trillion.
“You should have a target on your back”
I thought about the courage of Steve Jobs and Loretta Lynn in light of an article by evangelical cultural commentator Dr. Michael Brown titled “If you’re a Christian, you should have a target on your back.” He offers specific examples:
- “If you speak up for the unborn, you will be targeted.
- “If you uphold marriage and family as God intended, you will be targeted.
- “If you claim salvation is only through Jesus, you will be targeted.
- “If you resist LGBT activism in the schools, you will be targeted.
- “If you preach the word of God with brokenness and humility but without compromise or dilution, you will be targeted.”
He cites Paul’s assertion: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) and states, “If we’re not being persecuted, resisted, or targeted on some level for our godly living and preaching in Jesus, then something is wrong.”
Jesus warned his followers, “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Does the world hate you today?
One: Pray for sacrificial courage.
It is not easy to be vilified for believing what Christians have believed for twenty centuries, but that’s where we are today. No one likes being called intolerant and bigoted.
But we can claim the fact that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). And we can pray now for the courage we will need today.
Two: Choose courage for the sake of those who need biblical truth.
The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). As a result, when we share our faith, we are not imposing our values on others—we are giving them the greatest gift they will ever receive. Conversely, if we cower before their opposition, we dishonor our Lord and harm the very people we are called to serve.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (AD 540–604) observed: “Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men. . . . [They] are not zealous pastors who protect their flocks, rather they are like mercenaries who flee by taking refuge in silence when the wolf appears.” He added, “The word of reproach is a key that unlocks a door, because reproach reveals a fault of which the evildoer is himself often unaware.”
Three: Love people whether they love our Lord or not.
John warned us: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). We are called to stand for biblical truth because we love those with whom we share it. The more they reject it, the more they need it.
The sicker the patient, the more urgent the physician.
Cornel West observed: “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” As Erma Bombeck noted, loving our children enough to let them hate us is “the hardest part of all.”
“The world cannot hate us”
Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is considered the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. They will spend it fasting from food and water as they face their wrongdoings and seek forgiveness.
We can join them by taking time for our own introspection and confession. Are there areas of your life where you are compromising with the standards of the world? Where you are less than courageous in your public faith? Where you are hiding your light (Matthew 5:15) rather than shining as a light in the world by “holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15–16)?
Let’s pray today for the courage of our convictions. And let’s trust God to answer our prayers as we choose to stand boldly for our Lord.
Missionary and martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his biography, “The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!”
Will you be dangerous today?