"... so long as we can profess religion without any great hazard of life, liberty, or estates, we may shew much zeal and forwardness in the ways of godliness; but when it comes to the sharps, to resisting unto blood, few will be found to own and assert it openly in the face of such dangers." (p. 277, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)This of course is stating the case in extreme conditions - such as those faced by Flavel's hearers in the 1660's and 70's. However, what follows next is clearly and directly applicable to us and our society, wherein zealous pursuit of Biblical Christianity is in many ways frowned upon and judged as extremist practice:
"The first retreat is usually made from a free and open, to a close and concealed pursuit of religion; not opening our windows, as Daniel did, to shew we care not who knows we dare worship our God, and are not ashamed of our duties, but hiding our principles and practice with all the art and care imaginable, reckoning it well if we can escape danger by letting fall our profession which might expose us to it..." (p. 277, Complete Works of John Flavel, Banner of Truth)This "first retreat" is something to which I think we are quite subject today - and thanks be to God that there is no further danger than might cause us to retreat here to this first step. We at present face no danger, in general, to life and limb, or to personal security - as yet. However, even under the relatively light dangers of a bad reputation, or judgments about a lack of liberality of character, or under the accusations of personal offense when our practice of our Christianity causes unbelievers discomfort or to feel guilty, we are, I think, quite prone to this first retreat.
We want to be liked, so we hide our practice from onlookers. We do little more than bow our heads at table in the restaurant, rather than praying out loud but in soft voice appropriate to a public place. We make excuses rather than express the real reason we aren't planning to let our kids play on sports teams that participate on the Lord's Day. We fail to discuss the real reasons why we don't go to movies very often, making cost the issue, rather than the rampant sex and vulgarity and the assumption of wicked and evil worldviews that characterize nearly all of Hollywood's productions. We hide our faith from the onlooking world because we're not sufficiently steeled in the practice of a firm and zealous public profession. In this we fail our Lord, and show ourselves ashamed to be His. How easy it is to say through our actions things we do not believe, and which contradict the very faith we cling to as our only hope. I have found in my brief read through Flavel this morning plenty to think about, and to reassess as Christ molds and remakes me into His holy image.
I hope for you, wherever you are in this journey, and whatever challenges you face in your walk, that today's little snippet of a reminder has encouraged and exhorted you, whatever your particular needs might be.