I love that moment in the movie Luther, when Martin Luther ” is forced to respond to his position with a “Yes or No.” Luther’s response is “Unless I am shown through Scripture or reason, I cannot and will not recant, here I stand.” A clip of this can be seen below…
Some have said that the church is on the cusp of another Reformation. Others have suggested that this is a time of renewal for the church. I believe we are closer to a Pentecost-like transformation.
Whether reformation, renewal or transformation, we will always be tempted as individual parts of the body and as Christian communities to slip back into the worn rut of the status quo if we are not somehow perseverant in the faith and calling we are being led to through the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be “perseverant” though?
Perseverance is not the same as stubborness. To be stubborn is to be unwilling to move even though reason would suggest otherwise. Luther was not stubborn when he said, “Here I stand.” Luther had moved significantly from the position he had grown up under and been oppressed by. The Holy Spirit is not calling us to be stubborn or “stiff-necked” as the people of Israel were often referred to by our Lord, the prophets and Stephen in Acts. Perseverance is not being intransigent.
Instead, perseverance is adhering to a course of action or toward a specific purpose or mission. The Holy Spirit is moving us to a perseverance focused on a missional journey. This journey will be marked by prayer, God’s Word, worship, being and serving together, as well as sharing our faith with one another. This journey will take us as individuals and communities through many times and places of transformation. This journey will call us to bear crosses and realign values, practices and maybe even beliefs. Perseverance is focused on the goal of our high calling as the people of God and yet it is also a dynamic journey, one that reflects the very image of our life-giving, life-transforming Creator.
So what if we as individuals and communities within the body of Christ were perseverant? What would that look like?
In one of the congregation’s I served I began to unfold God’s vision for them. In the process some people rebelled and I gave up on that vision. Two years later I discovered that pieces of that vision were blooming, not because of me, but because some of the people persevered and lived out that vision. A perseverant church is one that begins to see the unfolding of God’s kin-dom.
God is calling us as a church into a challenging and exciting “present-future” kin-dom. However, it will require our perseverance as we run the race towards the goal of that high calling as God’s kin-dom people.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)