Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Making a stand

I came across the following from an article in the Kairos Journal (http://www.kairosjournal.org/)

"On a bright April day in 1743, John Wesley stood preaching to an open-air crowd the great truths of salvation. The rag-tag congregation, who had come out into the countryside to hear this famous preacher, listened enraptured to his message of regeneration and new life. Just then, an old drunk rode his horse into the middle of the crowd, rearing the beast up and shouting all manner of curses and bitter words at the preacher. Wesley, who by this time was used to such displays, tried to ignore the man and continue his sermon. That course, however, quickly proved impossible when the fool drew his horse up and, still spewing venom at Wesley and his gospel, tried to run down some of the crowd. People scattered, no one was trampled, and in a few minutes the situation was brought under control. Speaking later to some local residents, Wesley was shocked to learn who the old wobbly drunk was: a clergyman from a neighbouring parish church!

After months of open air preaching, Wesley had learned to expect such opposition. Anglican rectors early on refused to allow him to preach from their pulpits, so Wesley finally forsook the beautiful established churches altogether and took his message first to the church cemeteries and then to the countryside. Thousands of hearers followed him, but even there in the remote regions, he could not avoid trouble. Hecklers and other troublemakers hounded him wherever he went, running through the crowds screaming, banging pots and pans together, or even throwing rotten eggs and over-ripe fruit at him to silence his preaching.

Wesley’s message evoked such a vehement response because he called on Christians to do more than merely recite their creeds once a week. He expected the gospel of Christ to change their hearts and, from there, to reform their lives and ultimately their entire society. “Christianity is essentially a social religion,” he said, and “to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it.”

Following Christ is hard and can lead you to make a stand not only against the culture in which you live, but sometimes against the very church you belong to. Wesley did this and, by the grace of God, was seen to be right in the end. Today the same call goes out to Christians who want to be true to Christ even if it means that they are at odds with their own denomination or society. And they will be standing not only with Wesley but others before him who would not budge even if they saw that they were, at the time, in a minority of one.

Such a person was Athanasius. In 325, at the age of 27, Athanasius began his leading role against the Arians (a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ) as a deacon and assistant to
Bishop Alexander of Alexandria during the First Council of Nicaea. Roman emperor Constantine the Great had convened the council in May–August 325 to address the Arian position that the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, is of a distinct substance from the Father. Three years after that council, Athanasius succeeded his mentor as archbishop of Alexandria. In addition to the conflict with the Arians (including powerful and influential Arian churchmen led by Eusebius of Nicomedia), he struggled against the Emperors Constantine, Constantius II, Julian the Apostate and Valens. He held out and became known as "Athanasius Contra Mundum" (Latin for Athanasius Against the World). Within a few years after his death, Gregory of Nazianzus called him the "Pillar of the Church". His writings were well regarded by all Church fathers who followed, in both the West and the East, who noted their rich devotion to the Word-become-man, great pastoral concern, and profound interest in monasticism.

Athanasius is counted as one of the four great Eastern Doctors of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church.

So remember: "Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it."
William Penn

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