Now, here’s a thing – I mentioned a few weeks ago that many people were taking the opportunity to suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic absolutely proved the importance of whatever cause it was they were promoting before the pandemic.
It seems very fashionable these days to have a cause and to seek to promote that one thing above all others. We might find some of these causes very laudable and wish to offer our support. Others we might find despicable and wish to oppose very strongly. To be honest, some I support you might find despicable and vice versa (or we might just disagree on them!)
But often the point about ‘a cause’ is the strength of feelings that people have about it and this can lead to all sorts of tensions, fractures and accusation of treachery. For example, after the American Civil War many ex-Confederates felt that somehow they would have won had they not been betrayed by certain elements on their own side. A whole ‘Lost Cause’ mythology grew up around this which then fed into the re-establishment of white supremacy and the continued oppression of black people, even though slavery had been abolished.
By tradition Peel Street is a Strict Baptist church and there is a history amongst Strict Baptists both of referring to the ‘Strict Baptist Cause’, and, sadly of tensions and fractures (and accusations of betrayal) around what it means. (My old friend Malcolm Macgregor used to say that after proclaiming the Gospel and avoiding ongoing sin, church unity was the highest thing to aspire to).
If we do have a cause, then, it should be the cause of Christ., but what do we mean by that? I think it means two things, both found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.2 Timothy 1. 11-14
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
Like Paul we should proclaim the Gospel (as Jesus himself commands us in the Great Commission – ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ – Matt 27.16. What we must also do is keep what we learn from the scriptures and guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Taken together, these two things make up the cause of Christ – living out our lives in His service. Most of the causes we hear about are not an over-riding imperative, a ‘must-do’, above all things. But, for us, the cause of Christ is, or should be. We have to ask ourselves whether we are living out our lives promoting and furthering that cause. And, of course there is no retiring from it. John Piper contrasts the lives of two retired couples – one was two unrelated elderly ladies who died in a car crash in Cameroon, bringing the Gospel and medical care to the sick. The other, a married couple retired early to cruise on a boat, collect seashells and play softball. One was living the dream, the other was a tragedy. I’ll let you decide which was which.