I had a friend back when I was in High School who, upon learning that I was a Christian, advised me: “That’s cool that you go to church, just don’t get fanatical about it.”
Like every other awkward teenage boy trying to fit in, I sure didn’t want to be seen by my peers as fanatical. A fanatic was a religious “nut” who never did anything fun and always went around talking about church and the Bible. These were the kids that others made fun of, kids who didn’t have very many friends. Socially shunned, publicly ridiculed, inevitably ostracized; any teenager who was very serious about their faith when I was in school was looked upon with suspicion and disdain. Making a firm stand for Christ and being outspoken about the things of God was definitely not the quickest path to becoming “popular.” When I was in High School, doing these things would get you labeled as a fanatic and would be tantamount to social-suicide. I imagine that things have not changed much in most public schools today.
Although my own days of trying to fit in and “win friends and influence people” have long since passed, I have learned enough to know that this world will tolerate a genuine faith in God only to a point before it becomes uncomfortable and begins to push back. Social stigma and intolerance are in no way limited to the time of adolescence, a period when any behavior that does not fit neatly within the narrow space of what is considered “normal” is viewed as threatening and frowned upon. The workplaces and business world of adulthood are no less critical of serious devotion to the Lord, though the outward expression of such criticism may not be as juvenile. A minor, nominal belief is acceptable, like the co-worker who once told me regarding his church-going practices: “I’m C.E.O. — Christmas and Easter only”, but anyone who begins to talk seriously about the things of God will likely be viewed with a certain amount of animosity by those around them.
The prevailing attitude of the unsaved is to marginalize the witness of those who belong to Christ, and one of the ways this is done is by attempting to reach a compromise. Like my friend who urged me to not get fanatical with my faith, they seek to muzzle our testimony by keeping us firmly rooted in the things of this world. With this in mind, we come to the end of the Eighth chapter of Exodus in our study of the book where we see Pharaoh offering a compromise to Moses and Aaron:
“And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.” (Exodus 8:25)
This is the first of four different concessions that Pharaoh will offer in an effort to compromise with them. The demand given by Moses was for Pharaoh to let the Israelites go three day’s journey into the desert in order to worship God (Ex. 5:3). Having initially refused, mocking Moses and his God, Pharaoh and his people have felt the judgment of God in the first four plagues. Desirous that no further calamity befall them, Pharaoh offers this compromise: let the Hebrews worship their God, but do it in the land of Egypt. Serve the Lord, but keep your feet in the world. “That’s cool if you want to go to church, just don’t get fanatical about it.” A Christian with one foot planted in the church does not bother the unsaved, so long as the other foot stays planted where they are at. The person who goes to church every Sunday morning and the bar every Saturday night doesn’t make the lost sinner uncomfortable, he’s “sacrificing to God in the land of Egypt.”
“And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.” (Exodus 8:28)
After Moses and Aaron reject Pharaoh’s first offer, he makes this second attempt: Worship God if you must, but don’t go too far away. All right, if you won’t walk with one foot in this world and one foot in the church, at least don’t go too far into serving God. Go to church Sunday morning, stay away from the bars on Saturday night, but don’t start praying in public or reading your Bible around me or, least of all, don’t start “pushing your beliefs” on me! Believe what you want to believe, but don’t start preaching to me! The world mocks the hypocrite, but they appreciate the fact that he is a non-threatening sort of believer. The man who will hold onto his faith for so long, only to lose it when things get tough, is a relief to the unsaved because they feel it lets them off the hook. When they see real faith in action, when they see what God can do in the life of someone who simply will not let go of Him, things begin to get very uncomfortable for them.
“So Moses and Aaron were brought back to the king. He said to them, “Go and worship the Lord your God. But tell me, just who is going?” Moses answered, “We will go with our young and old people, our sons and daughters, and our flocks and herds, because we are going to have a feast to honor the Lord.” The king said to them, “The Lord will really have to be with you if ever I let you and all of your children leave Egypt. See, you are planning something evil! No! Only the men may go and worship the Lord, which is what you have been asking for.” Then the king forced Moses and Aaron out of his palace.” (Exodus 10:8-11 NCV)*
Pharaoh’s third offer of compromise is one that it very relevant for Christian parents today: “Believe whatever you want, but leave your kids out of it!” Society has gone to great lengths, particularly in recent years, to undermine the efforts of parents providing their children with a Christian upbringing. From the compulsory indoctrination of atheistic credos in the science class, to the denial of the rights of kids to express their religious beliefs on school property, the battle for the minds of our youth has now entered the legal and political arenas as godless government leaders attempt to persuade kids to reject the values they are being taught at home and embrace material secularism. Court decision after court decision pushes the line a little further toward the State possessing the exclusive prerogative to decide how religious faith may or may not be practiced, particularly where kids are involved.
If a great many of the more militant atheists had their way, it would be illegal to teach children about the Bible altogether. While, to his credit, outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins concedes that to outlaw teaching kids about Christ would be a travesty to democracy whose consequences would outweigh the “good” accomplished by doing so, his opinion on the matter does not seem to fall very short of it:
“How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?” Dawkins asks. “It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?” (click here for the article in which this quote appears)
He may not advocate legal action to prevent the spread of these “manifest falsehoods” (at least at this time), but he does go on to say that “We should think harder about how to stop them.” (ibid)
“And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.” (Exodus 10:24)
In the final concession that Pharaoh offers, he tells Moses that they may all go out into the wilderness and worship God, but that they must leave their possessions behind. Pharaoh knew that, if the Israelites left their property behind, they would not go too far away and that they would certainly be back. Jesus said that where a man’s treasure is, there will his heart be also (Luke 12:34). We will never stray too far from the things that we truly value. Thus it is this final compromise which the world offers to the child of God as well: Serve God if you must, serve Him fervently, serve Him with your whole family, but make sure you leave those things you treasure right here in the world. How many of the people that we brush elbows with in the Sanctuary on Sunday morning are among the most cutthroat businesspeople come Monday morning? They serve Almighty God on Sunday, but the almighty Dollar Monday through Friday. To whom do their hearts really belong?
We will leave all of this behind one day for good, never to return again. We will take none of our property, none of our money, none of our possessions with us at all. Will we miss it? Let us worship God with a whole-hearted passion and never compromise with the world. We will not entirely leave the “land of Egypt” physically until the Lord calls us home, but our hearts should be far from it. Stand up today for the things of God and do not let anyone talk you into compromising. Do not be afraid to be fanatical!
May the Lord bless you and keep you. To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
*Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”