We Don’t Get to Choose our Martyrs

We all knew the moment was coming when Christians, including those in public office, would begin to suffer for their convictions about marriage.

Like the Apostles, who could also have simply moved on, Mrs. Davis has refused to do the authorities’ dirty work for them. By refusing to resign, she is putting the moral responsibility for that action upon her accusers and judges. Many Christian men and women have done this through the years as they’ve stood before the unjust and unbiblical laws of the State, and sometimes the Church, and said, “We ought to obey God rather than man,” whatever the consequences may be.

 

“It’s the wrong case.”

“It’s the wrong time.”

“It’s the wrong person”

“She’s from the wrong church.”

All reasons I’ve heard and read in the past few days as to why Kim Davis should either resign from her County Clerk position or else just get on with issuing gay marriage licenses (latest news report here). And that’s coming from Christians, some of whom have been mighty with the pen in arguing against gay marriage, but are now wilting before the sword of the secular State.

We all knew the moment was coming when Christians, including those in public office, would begin to suffer for their convictions about marriage, and we all readied ourselves to rally in support of them. But now that it’s happened, many Christians are picking holes in Mrs. Davis, her arguments, and her actions.

We wanted a “martyr”; but not this one, it would appear. If only it was someone who could write like Al Mohler, speak like Russell Moore, and debate like Ryan Anderson; someone from a mainline church, someone of impressive appearance, someone who had a perfect marriage record (Mrs. Davis is on her fourth marriage, having only recently been converted to Christ). But we don’t get to choose our martyrs. God does that. As with salvation:

“…not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

And I don’t quote that to denigrate Mrs. Davis in any way; I have the highest admiration for her and esteem her far higher than myself. Rather, these verses describe the world’s perspective on God’s people; not God’s, or ours (I trust).

Many Christians have been called to serve and suffer for Christ who have far from the best track records or gifts (just ask the Apostle Paul; or just ask me). It’s not for us to second-guess God’s chosen vessels, but to get behind the ones he has chosen to be His instruments to establish truth and righteousness or expose evil and hypocrisy.

Just resign!

“She should just resign and get a job she can do with a good conscience,” say many. The basic principle behind this “solution” is that we walk (or run) away from every situation where human law contradicts God’s law. We fight to stop secular laws from becoming the law of the land (or the church); but once it’s done, we stop fighting; we either obey or we give up our callings. (Which won’t leave us many callings the way things are going.)

Thankfully, the Egyptians midwives refused to do that; Pharaoh’s daughter refused to do that; Daniel refused to do that; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to do that; the wise men from the East refused to do that; the Apostles refused to do that; many of the Reformers, the Covenanters, and the Puritans refused to do that; Bonhoeffer and many Christians in Nazi Germany refused to do that. Multitudes in North Korea and China are refusing to do that today. Pro-life medical professionals are refusing to do that every day of their lives.

In some areas, Mrs. Davis seems to have a better grasp of theology than many who claim to be theologians. However, it’s not exactly complicated. As the Apostles put it in words any child could understand, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And in another place: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).

Like the Apostles, who could also have simply moved on, Mrs. Davis has refused to do the authorities’ dirty work for them. By refusing to resign, she is putting the moral responsibility for that action upon her accusers and judges. Many Christian men and women have done this through the years as they’ve stood before the unjust and unbiblical laws of the State, and sometimes the Church, and said, “We ought to obey God rather than man,” whatever the consequences may be.

So, this morning, let’s pray for a Christian sister who is in prison indefinitely (until she changes her mind, the Judge said) for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses in the USA. (Whoever thought such a sentence would ever be written in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? And let’s have a bit more of the latter, please). Pray that she would be kept from the “lions”, that she would hold firm and strong, and that she would know the presence of the Son of God beside her in this fiery trial. And may she inspire us all to have the courage of our convictions and stand wherever, whenever, and for whatever God has called us to fight.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.

Read another opinion: Saying Something about Kim Davis