As I alluded to in my first Saturday Saints post, I have been reading the Book of Maccabees lately. To say that I have found it highly pertinent to the present crisis would be an understatement of epic proportions. I will be quoting liberally from the first book today, because there is a lot to be said, and a lot to be learned.
11 In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” 12 This proposal pleased them, 13 and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. 14 So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, 15 and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.
41 Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, 42 and that all should give up their particular customs. 43 All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. 44 And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, 46 to defile the sanctuary and the priests, 47 to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, 48 and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, 49 so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. 50 He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”
51 In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. He appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice, town by town. 52 Many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; 53 they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.
There is nothing really unique about our times. The faithful were tempted to abandon their faith throughout the history of Judaism, and in fact did at a number of times. Always there was the perceived need to adopt the customs of the people’s around them in order to “fit in.” Sometimes, like here, it was accompanied and pushed through the threat of force. But at other times it was profit or ease of life or simply habit. Every time that this conformity with the world happened, the people of the Lord paid a heavy price. Yet they keep repeating this process, time and time again until the Lord was among them.
As Christians, we are not accustomed to that same kind of pressure. At least, we haven’t been subject to it for a long time. Not since the days of the Roman Empire has Christianity faced, on a mass scale, the same pressure to conform to the world around them. The sole exception would be those parts of Christendom (a term never used anymore, which says a lot) which have faced (and still face) the threat posed by Islam. Outside of those areas, however, Christians have grown complacent. We readily adopt the practices and beliefs of the unbelieving around us, all the while pretending to ourselves that we keep the faith. It seems as though most Christians, even those who still read their Bible (all of it, even) have forgotten this warning from Saint Paul:
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]
We have conformed ourselves to the world. And most of us have done it with little cause. We don’t face terrible persecution, nor is there even great profit in this conversion. Instead, we adopt the ways of the world because it is the easy path to take. Nevermind that our Lord and Savior warned us that “the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” But we don’t seek the hard road any longer, nor the narrow gate. Foolishly we have given our hearts and minds over to ideas and doctrines like modernism, feminism and (this is for you Zippy) liberalism. Sadly we have forgotten yet another warning from Saint Paul:
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.
As Christians are going to have to make a choice. We must choose between the ways of the world, or the ways of God. Between worldly philosophy or Holy Faith. There is no middle way. One path leads to destruction, and the other path leads to Life. Choose wisely.