I am visiting with William Stringfellow this morning. I met him many years ago and I was deeply impressed by his commitment to the Christian Cause. He has through the years forced me to see that Christianity, when true to itself, is always attempting to overthrow the existing order. Here is how he explained that idea in his book, Instead of Death:
“The biblical lifestyle is always a witness of resistance to the status quo in politics, economics, and all society. It is a witness of resurrection from death. Paradoxically, those who embark on the biblical witness constantly risk death - through execution, exile, imprisonment, persecution, defamation, or harassment - at the behest of the rulers of this age. Yet those who do not resist the rulers of the present darkness are consigned to a moral death, the death of their humanness. That, of all the ways of dying, is the most ignominious.”
William Stringfellow had a unique writing style. His words had a crispness that cut through the petty like a sharp-edged sword. Perhaps this came from his training as a lawyer. Whatever the case, here is what he shared with me today.
“The ministry of Christ is a ministry of great extravagance—of a reckless, scandalous expenditure of His life for the sake of the world’s life. Christ gives away His life. The world finds new life in His life. His is not a very prudential life, not a very conservative life, not a very cautious life, not—by ordinary standards—a very successful life.
He shunned no one, not even adulterers, not even tax collectors, not even neurotics and psychotics, not even those tempted to suicide, not even alcoholics, not even poor people, not even beggars, not even lepers, not even those who ridiculed Him, not even those who betrayed Him, not even His own enemies. He shunned no one.
The words that tell of the ministry of Christ are words of sorrow, poverty, rejection, radical unpopularity. They are words of agony.
It seems ridiculous to apply such words to the ministry of the churches nowadays. Yet where these words cannot be truthfully applied to the ministry of the churches today they must then be spoken against the churches to show how far the churches are from being the Body of Christ engaged in the ministry of Christ in the world.”
Reading these words, I feel that I have consigned myself to a moral death, the death of my humanness, because I have not resisted the rulers (the principalities and the powers) of the present darkness. Methinks, I have not and doth not now protest enough!