by James Harvey
I recall a father telling me how after a two-week business trip he returned home and, quite unintentionally, became a source of tension. The time away had dulled his senses to the family dynamics. He ended up taking some stands in matters of discipline that were not as artful as he would have liked. This humble father quickly remedied the situation through apology and patient listening. But the story illustrates that standing firm is an art to be cultivated in Christian life.
We should first understand that the Scriptures call us to stand firm. The fact that standing firm can be difficult and requires tact does not mean that it should be avoided. The gospel was at stake in the Galatian churches. Paul opposed Peter to his face to preserve the integrity of the gospel of free grace (Gal. 2:11). He exhorts the Galatians to stand firm against the false teaching that said faith in Christ plus adherence to Jewish ceremonial law was necessary for salvation. To yield to such teaching would be to lose the gospel itself: “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1). These teachers were so influential and persuasive that even Peter and Barnabas were led astray. But the Galatians had to stand firm. It is not hard to imagine how impressive or influential people in our churches can push some agenda that, perhaps even unwittingly, undermines the gospel. Standing firm is essential.
The health of the church was at stake in Corinth, and Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to address a whole host of issues that the church was facing: factions devoted to favorite preachers, sexual immorality, marriage problems, controversies over eating food offered to idols, disorder in worship, and false teaching on the resurrection of the body. At the close of this letter, the Apostle says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). The forces of division, the lusts of the flesh, and the lure of false teaching will continue to challenge God’s people. Standing firm is essential.
The key to the art of standing firm is love. Immediately after Paul exhorts the men of Corinth to stand firm, he says, “Let all that you do be done in love” (v. 14). Christians are called to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). If we don’t stand firm in the faith, our homes, churches, and communities will suffer. But if we stand firm devoid of love, our witness will be marred. Indeed, the ability to have a fearless love is what makes our standing firm unique and powerful before those who oppose the truth (Phil. 1:27–28). The world stands firm in hostility, as those “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). We stand firm in love because God first loved us. We stand firm not because we fear loss, but because we are already guaranteed immeasurable gain (1 Peter 1:4). We stand firm not because we must earn God’s blessing, but because He has already poured it out upon us in Christ (2 Thess. 2:14–15).
Consider where God is calling you to stand firm. Practice the art of standing firm, full of love for Christ and others.