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Christian Grit

April 30, 2007
S. Michael Craven
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This past week, a heart-wrenching letter was circulated across the Internet from fellow Christians in Turkey, the details of which have been confirmed by numerous news reports. The letter gives account of the savage torture and murder, which occurred on April 18th of German missionary Tilman Geske, pastor Necati Aydin, and Ugur Yuksel in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch.

In an unspeakable act of hatred and violence, ten young Muslim men plotted, planned and savagely tortured these brothers for three hours ultimately killing all three. Despite a general lack of sympathy for the Christian martyrs among government officials, all of the assailants in this case are now in police custody, scheduled to be tried as terrorists. The fact is, persecution of the Church continues in much of the world today.

However, it has been the courage of these and other Turkish Christians that has proven so inspiring. In an act that hit the front page in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Geske, wife of the slain German missionary expressed her forgiveness for the assailants in a television interview. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

Included in the letter was an appeal from Turkish pastor Fikret Bocek to Christians around the world, in which he said:

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverance. The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted.  Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.
This is real courage in the wake of real persecution! The idea of courage seems to be less and less understood in the contemporary American church as a quality even related to the Christian life. The erosion of male and female distinctiveness into one androgynous human species that political-correctness and radical feminism promotes, has only emasculated men and confused women.

Furthermore, an emasculated Church does not encourage men especially, to a bold and courageous assertion of biblical truth and justice in a culture determined to suppress that truth and act unjustly. The result has been the increasing marginalization of the American Church, degeneration of our culture, and the conformity of Christians to the world. Gone, it seems, is the fearless press of the Church into spiritually hostile territory which marked earlier generations.

One of the guiding verses in my life and ministry is Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Scripture has revealed the heart of God and defined what is “good” and conversely what is “bad.” We know injustice when we see it and “what the Lord requires of us” is to oppose it at every turn regardless of the cost. The fallen world, in which we live, is full of brutality and suffering and the Church is called to dispense mercy or “kindness” and sometimes this provision of mercy requires us to stand against the masses. This most assuredly demands courage, especially when the whole current of this age conspires against the character and desires of God.

For too long, we have been plied with a popularized image of Jesus Christ as a shrinking, mild-mannered pacifist, but Scripture gives us no such picture. Jesus, I contend, was “a man’s man.” The greatest example of his extraordinary courage and strength is given to us in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was not oblivious to the pain and suffering that was to come nor was he supernaturally immune to it. He knew he would bear the full horror of it while bound in human flesh — all of the pain, rejection, and death — and yet he went willingly, knowing full well why he had been sent by the Father. He was to carry out the Father’s mission even unto death. This is the model by which we also should live our lives in service to God, the world, and our neighbor.

I think most of us no longer see the world as being embroiled in a great spiritual conflict of which we are to be a part, but instead we see the world as including conflict of which we want to avoid. My friends, this is cowardice! Martin Luther called avoidance of this battle treason. These two terms used to carry great shame in our culture. Alas, that is no longer the case.

What is needed is grit – like that of Jesus, the Apostles, and the “great cloud of witnesses” such as these brothers and sisters in Turkey. What is grit you may ask? Grit is determination or strength of character that stands, regardless of the cost, upon one’s convictions. It is a psychological and emotional “toughness” that cannot be dissuaded or discouraged. Grit is when men and women of conviction resolve to act, intervene and stand for truth, justice, and mercy regardless of the personal cost. This “grit” is not exclusive to martyrdom; it also applies to the courage and resolve necessary to persevere in a relationship with those hostile to the Truth or to act with charity toward those with whom we disagree. Practically this means being a “missional” Christian to that profane or offensive neighbor and co-worker, antagonistic boss or teacher, or the homosexual couple down the street. It means that we do not shrink from those who are lost because they make us uncomfortable. We do not fear the world! Instead, by God’s grace, we muster the toughness to endure for their sake and His glory, putting aside our discomfort and loving them as Jesus would.  

The tragedy today is that despite the fact that doing so will likely not cost one their life; too many are still unwilling to take up the cause of Christ to the extent we should. It is grit or basic toughness that seems so lacking in the Church. We have become soft, being ruled by our desire for comfort and fear of conflict. Nobody, it seems, wants to go against the stream for fear of the cost. But I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s great quote, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” We have been made alive in Christ and we have been left on mission in the world to bear witness to God’s redemptive grace and mercy. It is time for the American Church to cultivate grit and toughness for the sake of truth, justice and mercy in the name of Jesus. May we be possessed with the same strength and courage that our Turkish brothers and sisters have demonstrated, if only to put Christ and His Kingdom first in our [safe, secure and comfortable] lives.

© 2007 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : Charlie Brown  

April 30, 2007 9:40 AM

Hey Michael,GREAT article...I was blessed & challenged. May God continue to bless your ministry. Much love

Response from : Melissa Cole  

April 30, 2007 10:32 AM

Amen Michael!! Once again you brought the truth front and center. Thank you for your boldness, and your knowledge of the word! We must wake up in this country to what is going on. I read recently that a school district in California is making it mandatory to exclude gender in teaching. I was stunned when I read this article, but of course if they can erase gender they accomplish so much. We must pray for God to bring revival in the country, it is our only hope! I look forward to your articles, you are a true blessing to all of us.

Response from : Colleen Minter McCool  

April 30, 2007 11:54 AM

Christians with true grit work to stop war and change drug policy in America.

We have separation of church and state to keep the government out of moral
issues. That is how our founders set things up based on Jesus' teachings.
Our constitution is a plan to create the land of abundance in Bible

Take heart, the American dream comes directly from God and God has the power
to accomplish it. Spirit filled leaders are channels for Good Orderly
Direction! The "Spirit of '76" was and is the Holy Spirit! Return to these
roots and the task ahead of us will never be as great as the Power behind
us! Ethics will rule America and we will be a fine, true example of liberty
to the world.

Current policies destroy families and official lawlessness rules.
Alcohol makes domestic violence 8xs more likely; cannabis does not. Taking
children out of homes of nonviolent cannabis users and placing them in homes in which alcohol is the drug of choice is policy bordering on insanity!

Our foreign policy is senseless. Instead of being a shining example of
liberty to the world, we try to dictate democracy! We have abandoned our Constitution and the founder's ideal of nonintervention.

Restore the American dream, it's time to end the terror by changing our intrusive, big-bully policies, both foreign and domestic. The monetary and environmental costs are staggering and the human suffering unconscionable.

Restore justice in America; construct science based drug policies about
saving and rehabilitating instead of ruining lives. Support for the federal
war on drugs is inconsistent with support for individual freedom,
constitutional government and the teachings of Jesus.

Response from : Loriane  

April 30, 2007 12:03 PM

Jesus is not a "man's man", he is a man for all of humanity! Your tone in this article is so aggressive, I can see you with a gun in your hand.

Response from : Pastor Rob Culton  

April 30, 2007 1:05 PM

Thanks, Michael. I've been on your list since last Oct. They've all been good, but this is the best. Keep up the good work. pastor Rob

Response from : Brian  

April 30, 2007 3:17 PM

Man. This is right on. Maybe if Pastor's were put in our public schools for a week and saw what has happened since God left we would have some true grit from the pulpits of America. Instead we have America's preachers preaching a message of selfish blessing as the Christian American Dream.

Response from : Doug Smith  

April 30, 2007 7:40 PM

I am encouraged and edified by your weekly podcasts. Thank you for the thoughtfulness you put into each one. This week's article, about Grit, was especially helpful. May this generation of Christians hear God's call for "True Grit".

God bless you as you continue to speak out with unpopular, but unchanging truth.

Response from : Eric Coggins  

May 1, 2007 12:56 AM

Amen! Preach it brother! The American Church has abdicated its responsibility to be salt and light. I fully recognize that I too have become way too comfortable. It is time to stand for the better way which can only be found in Christ Jesys.

Response from : john staton  

May 1, 2007 6:46 AM

In the last 50 years we have seen our country turn away from God. Each year it seems to slip further down the road to self destruction. The last bastion of Hope is the Family and the Church Family. Both are under attack from the Government and Society. Either we start standing firm now against the tide of moral decay or we dissapear as a Nation Under God. Very little time is left. God could usher in a Trumpet Blast tomorrow, and the Sainst will be caught up and gone. No Church would remain to save our children and their children.

As Moses lay before the Lord for 40 days and asked that the Israelites be spared, with the direction of the Holy Spirit we need to call out to the Lord and ask that He save our families. I want to start a movement to Save the Family, the structure that sits upon God's foundation which is built on the Cornerstone of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Response from : yvonne hunter  

May 1, 2007 8:04 AM

My rsponse may be denied but the truth of Christ will not be denied I was horrified by the tragic loss of the three faithful but horrief at your negative bigoted bias and 'un Christ like attitude to women in particular . I could debate for hours how Jesus went to women first loved women sent women out amongst the early preachers how dare you claim such terms ' a mans
man; that truly reflects your feeling of insecurity Do you truly believ that revelation, Th Holy spirit's blessing for preaching and ministry only adhers to men . May god forgive you .God does not select by Gender he uses those with a loving trusting heart from both male and female to compliment and support one another not an hierarchy that was man's own insecurity within the church that created such an unequal divide .Under god we are all equal all have sinned .Your judgemental attitude shall be judged by the Almighty as I will be judged But by the grace of God I can forgive your male weaknesses and pray God will reveal to you where your statements really come from within. Do not let such evil be dressed up as true doctrine. May God remove the scales from your eyes and heart.

Response from : Damon  

May 1, 2007 8:34 AM

The article was great and shows that we in America are so comfortable in church with our attitude of not offending non-Christians. May we see that we are to try to save them from Hell and that some may be offended by this but let us also do it in love so they will know we really care about them.

To address a couple of respondents: Yvonne, I do not think the author of the article was trying to make it a sexist issue at all. But you really were upset, even mad, in your response. Remember, although we may not have the same opinions about different issues we are still a family and need to overlook an offense as Soloman said in Proverbs.

Colleen, I agree with some of your statements and disagree with others. Your comments weren't really about the article but was more of a political speech. The article talked about us as a church coming together to realize that there will be persecution for our mission of leading others to Christ. Had nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana, alcoholism, ect. Brothers and sisters do not always agree but we are serving the same God and I will pray for God's blessings for you.

Response from : Charles McDowell  

May 1, 2007 3:41 PM

It is time for the American Church to cultivate grit and toughness for the sake of truth, justice and mercy in the name of Jesus. Are you npt talking about abstacts? Jesus, the Lord, has real physical existence and every knee shall bow fefore Him. I just do not get your point.

Response from : mark tankersley  

May 2, 2007 7:32 AM

Can we put this article in our church
NewsLetter? We have missionaries who
also told us about this tragedy, and
one of our families knew one of those who were killed. Your article is helpful, and would be used to let people in our church know what it is important to pray and support the ongoing work in Turkey.

Thanks for your letting me know.

Mark Tankersley
Associate Pastor

First ARP chur

Response from : Don Blosser  

May 8, 2007 5:10 PM

S. Michael Craven:
I find it disappointing when people hijack an important issue for their own personal use. The courage of the Turkish believers in the face of persecution is something we can all learn from. BUT...Why did you have to link it to gender issues? I do not intend to jump all over you like the woman responder to your artical who appeared to be bitter, judgemental, and unaware that gender distinctives do exist in scripture and in the mind of God. I also have a healthy distaste for the effeminate "pale Galilean" image of Christ that we see so often. But again, why hijack the Malatya martyrs to make that point? In doing so, you appear to downplay the courage of the Malatya widows and other women of courage in Turkey and other places of growing persecution. The wife of the German brother killed in Turkey has captured the attention of many around the world with her courageous faith in forgiving her husband's murderers. I was also very impressed and convicted by our Turkish sister who thanked God for the honor of having known her courageous martyred husband and expressed a desire to life worthy of his sacrifice. May we all live lives worthy of the sacrifice of suffering brothers & sisters living and DYING under persecution and may we live lives worthy of our Saviour's love and sacrifice.


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