“The Roman Orator, Cicero, summarized the attitude of the ancient world to the Cross when he said: ‘Not only let the Cross be absent from the person of Roman citizens, but it’s very name from their thoughts, eyes and ears.'”
That was two thousand years ago with a totally different supreme government in power. Yet, those words spoken long ago still rule the land although there is a vast difference between ancient Rome, and the people of today’s society.
Two thousand years ago Rome tried to silence the Name of Jesus and discredit the Cross and the crucifixion but failed for the Apostles boldly carried forth the ministry of Christ and made disciples throughout the land. The early Christians could not be silenced. They were willing to die for their faith and it has stood for over two thousand years. Men and women died rather than be silenced. What a vast difference from today’s modern society here in the United States.
I am a Baby Boomer that grew up in a country where religious freedom was freely experienced. I attended public school where each morning held the tradition of saying the Lord’s Prayer followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. During the holiday season, the school held an annual Christmas concert resounding with kids singing Christmas hymns and where the Hallelujah Chorus was loudly proclaimed. Our religious freedom was never in doubt and I am convinced we actually took it for granted.
But what was once a big part of our daily lives has disappeared and the words of that ancient Roman Orator haunt me. When did we drop the flame that ignited our faith and freedom in this country? When did we decide to join the current world view of being politically correct rather than have a willingness to stand and die for our faith? What we are seeing today is only the very beginning of the onslaught of Christianity where the Enemy of our souls is erasing the Cross from our thoughts, eyes and ears. Dare we keep silence any longer?
God taught me a powerful lesson years ago when I first started my public speaking. This was 20 years ago, back in the 90s when I was asked to speak for a public high school assembly in Indiana. I had a speaking agency that booked all of my speaking engagements and also handled all the legal work related to speaking contracts. For this event in Indiana, my legal contract specifically said I could NOT speak of my religious faith, or mention God or religion in any way. I was simply to tell the story of my deafness, and my days at the FBI. I am ashamed to say that I agreed to that contract and that I signed it not thinking twice over the matter. Little did I know there were lessons waiting for me in Indiana that would forever change my life.
When I enter the school building I was met by a man walking down the hall – he walked passed me then stopped and turned and warmly greeted me with, “I know you. You were on TV with The Gaithers Homecoming. You are a Christian.”
I smiled and told him he was right. With excitement he said, “You’re going to be giving your Christian Testimony today!
I was totally caught off guard but truthfully and soberly resp0nded, “No, I can’t give my testimony today. They don’t want me to talk about my faith or of God and I signed legal papers that I would not mention it so I won’t be able to give my testimony today.”
The look of this man’s face said it all. As he turned to go he stopped and looking me straight in my eyes he said, “I challenge you to give your full story for the glory of God.” He then disappeared down the hallway.
I was shaken by this encounter with this stranger that came out of nowhere. This just doesn’t happen at my speaking events and I was beginning to feel very uneasy and tense. I made my way into the school’s office where the principal was expecting me. He was enthused that I had arrived and shared how he was waiting to hear about my days with the FBI. I began to feel more comfortable and soon it was time to go to the large gym where the event was to be held.
The kids were all gathered in the combined auditorium/gym which was defined by a stage with curtains. I was led behind the curtains by a woman who was to assist me and who would let me know when my introduction was over so I could walk out on the stage. She would also be there at the end of my speech to listen for the kids’ questions and to give them to me so I could read her lips and answer their questions.
I was still standing behind the curtain when all of a sudden I “heard” a booming voice out of nowhere say, “If you don’t tell them who will?” It was so loud I actually turned to the woman next to me to see if she had heard the voice but she was busy motioning for me to go on stage. I began to move forward and was at the curtain which was just parting for my entrance when I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to face the woman and repeated those words still ringing in my head, “If I don’t tell them who will?” With that I turned and walked out onto the stage.
By now you must know that I did give my testimony that day – I did the very thing that I was told that I could not do. I shared how my faith in God brought me through the path of silence and how God directed my paths to the FBI. I thought I was in enough trouble but things continued to get even more complicated. It got much worse, my friend! It got much worse!
Finished with my story it was now time for the questions and answers section. The same woman that had guided me behind the curtain was now standing at my side on the platform taking the questions from the students and repeating them to me. The students were a lively group with such questions from what guns had I used at the FBI to what did I feed my Hearing Dog.
The interaction was going along quite smoothly until suddenly I felt a stillness and heaviness fall upon the entire gym. I looked at the woman and asked, “What was the question?” She just looked at me with disbelief, tight lipped and silent. Once again, I persisted, “Ma’am, I need the question to be able to answer it. Please.”
The seconds stretched into eternity before she reluctantly replied, “That student up there by the rafters wants to know if you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back in our lifetime.”
Now it was my turn to stand in stunned disbelief but I quickly looked at the principal sitting in the front row. “Do I have your permission, sir, to answer the question?” I asked.
There was evident hostility in his body language and a smirk on his face as he challenged, “Go ahead take a stab at it. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with this one.”
Praying silently, I looked up into the rafters to find the student who had dropped this bomb shell with his question. He raised his hand so I could see him. Speaking directly to him I answered, “That’s a great question. You must understand, though, it’s not the first time it’s been asked. It’s been asked by every generation and the reason it’s been asked is because no one knows and because no one knows we must be ready for Him. I could get on my flight after this assembly and the plane could crash and in a split second I will stand before Him and the question isn’t so much do I know Him BUT does He know me? Is my name recorded in His Book of Life?” I went on to elaborate how a student could leave this assembly that day and be killed in a car crash…the question is, is their name recorded in the Book of Life. I expounded on this further by saying there could be an earthquake in Indiana or a fire in the city and in a split moment someone would stand before God the Father with His Son, Jesus.
I knew when I finished this session I was in deep dish, and I could hardly wait not only to leave the city limits but also the entire state of Indiana. I had the fear that in my deliberate disobedience to the signed agreement, this might be the end of my speaking days.
I flew out to my next engagement and then I received word from my speaking agency. “What on earth happened in Indiana? You have stacks of mail.”
I politely responded that I didn’t want to talk about it until I returned home. The mail was waiting for me and it was the big thick envelope from Indiana that grabbed my attention. Reluctantly I opened the envelope to find a personal note laying on top of students’ reports from the school in Indiana. I skimmed the note briefly and realized it was from the man from the hallway who had challenged me to give my testimony for the glory of God. He shared that he was an English teacher and had given the students the opportunity to write a report on my speech for extra credit. From the appearance of the stuffed envelope it seemed that everyone wanted the extra credit.
I laid his note down and picked up the first report on the top of the pile written in a young girlish print. The title struck me. Happiness Found In Tragedy…How odd that a young student should find such depth in my life-story. I knew I had to read this report.
The first line captured it all, “Silent Night, Holy Night, All Is Calm, All Is Bright.” This is my signature song which I always sing to close my story. The student continued to share the highlights she had gathered from hearing me speak and ended with this line, “God, please bless Sue Thomas.”
It warmed my heart to know that at least one student was carefully listening to my words during the assembly.
I picked up the teacher’s note again which expressed thankfulness that I had come and shared my story for the glory of God. He shared that he, too, was a Christian and that my sharing opened the opportunity for him to return to his classroom that day to share his own personal faith in God. It seemed to be a simple thank you note until I reached the last paragraph which read, “Sue, your words were more prophetic that day than you could have imagined. That night there was a fire and one of our own students was killed in it. Because you shared so openly about your faith in God and answered that question about the ‘return of Jesus coming in our lifetime’ you opened the door. Indeed, not only the students but the entire community is now asking questions about God, their faith and whether they would be ready to meet Jesus.”
I stopped reading the note and picked up the report again, staring at the title. Happiness Found In Tragedy. It was signed by Amanda. It was the last words young Amanda would ever write. Although I never knew Amanda in her life, it would be her death that would speak the loudest to me. I resolved I would never again sign a document or promise to omit God’s name, prayer or anything else. The world might find it offensive, but I can not deny my Lord the glory He is due. I must always live my faith even when it is not politically correct. I thank God He spoke that day in that still small Voice that even the profoundly deaf can hear. I thank God for that one moment in time where the conviction of His Spirit was so powerful that I could not escape the sentencing, whatever it may be, but rather, I had to be totally obedient to that command.
Two thousand years have passed since Cicero wrote those words, and many kings and kingdoms have all passed away. The fall of the greatest civilization in our own lifetime is upon us and these timely words echo, “Not only let the Cross be absent from the person of American citizens, but its very name from their thoughts, eyes and ears.” How long will the Christians in this country remain silenced? How long before we decide take up the Cross and unashamedly follow Him once more? We must make a decision to boldly take a stand for the name our Lord.
Have you been there, my friend? Are you there now? Do you have such a love and burning passion for the Lord Jesus Christ that you refuse to be silenced regardless of the cost? Have you conformed to this world by being politically correct, or rather does your faith mean enough that you are willing to lose out or even to die for what you hold to be true? Does it burn in your life and on your lips so that it may be passed on as a torch for the next generation?