Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 12 December 2014
Page 3

A Choice to Make

Robert Johnson

You may or may not have heard of a person named Stephanie Stephenson. Several years ago, she was working in Branson, Missouri as an understudy in one of the productions staged there. She landed a choice role in the touring company of Les Miserables. Her excitement faded, however, when she found out she would portray a prostitute in a street scene. She would have had to wear a revealing costume and be poked, prodded and fondled by male actors. Her choice? She quit and went back to Branson. She said, “People work all their lives to get to ‘Les Miz.’ I knew that I might be giving up a lot. There’s a fine line between the morals and going over that line.” The executive producer said he was shocked she quit the play, adding she could have played the role to “great acclaim” and “probably end up on Broadway.” He also said, “I respect what she did. I think she’s a brave young girl to forgo an amazing career boost.” I admire her nerve to stand up for what she believed in.

Stephanie isn’t a New Testament Christian, but her choice illustrates the commitment every New Testament Christian should have. When you obey the Gospel, you are proclaiming that you choose Christ over the world. He comes first. You will live for Him – no matter what. I wonder, though, how many New Testament Christians would have made her choice. I say that, seeing numbers decrease by almost half on Sunday night, knowing that New Testament Christians have rejected Christ for some activity other than assembling with their brothers and sisters to worship God. I say that, hearing New Testament Christians offer all kinds of excuses why they avoid serving in the kingdom of God, who wouldn’t think of saying such things to their employers. Just how committed are we, really?

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). You don’t have to wait until some major challenge comes along in your life to know the measure of your faith and commitment to God and the Gospel. Look at the everyday choices you make. Where does God come in them? Who really comes first? Put another way, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26).

Stephanie Stephenson could have offered all kinds of excuses to justify taking that offensive role. She didn’t, but remained true and committed to her convictions. If you consider the choices you make in life, what about you?

Cargo Faith

Robert Johnson

Have you ever heard of a cargo cult? While prevalent during the World War II era, some are still active today. According to Wikipedia, “a cargo cult is a Melanesian movement encompassing a diverse range of practices and occurring in the wake of contact with the commercial networks of colonizing societies. The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (cargo).” The supply drops used on these islands during the war included not only military equipment but other types of goods, such as clothing, medicines and food – items attractive to the native population. Wikipedia goes on to say:

Since the modern manufacturing process is unknown to them, members, leaders, and prophets of the cults maintain that the manufactured goods of the non-native culture have been created by spiritual means, such as through their deities and ancestors. These goods are intended for the local indigenous people, but the foreigners have unfairly gained control of these objects through malice or mistake. Thus, a characteristic feature of cargo cults is the belief that spiritual agents will, at some future time, give much valuable cargo and desirable manufactured products to the cult members.

To try and gain access to the cargo they saw coming to the foreigners, the natives believed that by imitating the actions of the foreigners, the “gods” would send them cargo as well.

Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw. Believers may stage drills and marches with sticks for rifles and use military-style insignia and national insignia painted on their bodies to make them look like soldiers, thereby treating the activities of Western military personnel as rituals to be performed for the purpose of attracting the cargo. (Wikipedia)

While this may seem utterly ridiculous to us, even though there are differences between such cultures and ours, are we really that different? We can go and assemble with our brothers and sisters to worship on Sunday morning, we may call ourselves Christians, but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. We may go through the motions, as the Melanesian natives did, and some still do, but is that all there is to our faith? Do we believe that by merely the external observance of our “rituals,” like those exercising cargo faith, that God will give us the “cargo” of eternal life? Externals are important, but what we do on the outside should be a reflection of what we are on the inside. Being a Christian isn’t just wearing a name. It isn’t performing certain acts in a certain way while giving no thought to what they are or what they should mean to us. To be a Christian indicates a heart responsive to the will of God, cleansed through the blood of Christ and seeking to conform to His image in all we say and do. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2). When we genuinely submit to God, and give to Him our hearts, minds and lives, those external actions reflect who we truly are, within and without, as beloved children of God.

Let’s rejoice in the salvation we have through Christ, in the love He shows to us in who He is and what He does for us. Let us take seriously the hope He offers for eternity. May the name Christian be more than a title, but let it be a reflection of the deep and abiding commitment we have to our Lord, understanding His will for us and walking in His example from a heart molded and shaped by His grace and mercy. Let us in thought, word and deed so live that others who see us realize the source for our lives and “glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

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