When we look at horrible moments in history, we wonder how people could have gone along with the wicked men who led them. Where was their character? Why didn’t they stand for the truth? More people should have been against slavery. More people should have opposed Jim Crow. And if I had been there, I would have. The Inquisition? The witch trials? I would have been the lone voice of reason if necessary.
No, I probably wouldn’t. And neither would you.
Jordan Peterson recently reminded us that the main lesson from the Holocaust was how the average German was willing to go along with it. Most of the people turning in Jews and even working in the camps weren’t hardcore Nazis. They were just citizens going with the flow. Peer pressure is powerful, even for adults. The infamous Stanford prison experiment backs that up.
With that in mind, let’s look at a startling passage out of Israel’s history.
Moses has been on the mountain receiving the Law from God for weeks. The people who had seen the plagues, who had walked down the middle of the Red Sea, who had heard the voice of God, get restless.
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1 NASB)
Aaron replies, “Are you out of your ever-loving minds?! Have you already forgotten what the Lord did before your very eyes? How could you even consider such a thing?!”
No he didn’t.
Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (Ex 32:2-4 NASB)
Moses’ own brother, the one who had actually performed miracles by the power of God, made them an idol.
We want to believe that if we’d been there we would have stood up to them. We would have defended God’s honor and reminded them of their duty. In reality that is very, very hard, and most people will not do it.
And now we come to today. And tomorrow. We’ve been living comfortably in a society that more or less agreed with Christian ethics for generations. That’s over. The day is coming and has now come when believers will have to decide whether they will stand for the truth, stay silent, or go along to get along.
It takes a tremendous amount of moral courage and moral clarity to stand up for the truth when your society doesn’t. If you can’t do it in the little things, you probably won’t do it in the big things.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were determined not to lie but also didn’t want to tell the whole truth? When pushed, when they dug for the details, you probably lied without even thinking because we’re more committed to not getting in trouble than we are to telling the truth. Been there.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had no desire to steal, but they made it too inconvenient to pay, so you just took their service or product without paying? You didn’t want to steal, but you were more devoted to your convenience. Been there, too.
If we are to have any hope of standing up to our society, if we honestly want to “dare to be a Daniel,” we have to stand firm in the little things. Tell the truth and take your lumps. Go out of your way to pay. Walk away from the gossip. Cut off your hand if it will make you sin.
In the coming days, we will only stand for Jesus in the big things if we have formed a habit of following him in the little things. So what will you do?
Image via Pixabay