Wednesday, August 30, 2006


After 13 days of harrowing captivity, FOX newsman Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were released by terrorists…unharmed…emotional and grateful. Images of them falling tearfully into the arms of loving family graced the television Sunday from morning ‘til night. Who of us didn’t rejoice?

Only those of us, perhaps, who understood the terms of their release. Dressed in Islamic garb, Steve and Olaf, cameras rolling, bowed their heads and converted to Islam. It was convert or be killed and they chose life.

Wouldn’t you? After all, everyone knows “conversions” are just performances required by deranged hostage takers to somehow advance their cause. No one means it when they renounce their government, their homeland….their God. You can believe something in your heart and say another, can’t you? A popular talk show host weighed in Monday morning to say “anyone would do that!” For the record, she is a Christian. A doctor friend with a small child agreed….as did others….all Christians. A men’s Bible study group discussed it and with only one dissent came to the same conclusion: Far more important to return home safely to family than to refuse to say certain words you don’t mean.

It grieves me, not that Olaf and Steve converted, because I don’t know if they have a personal relationship with Christ. I don’t fault them for their choice and have nothing but empathy and grief for them for making it….my grief comes from the lack of understanding by Christians of what this means…the unwillingness up front to pay the ultimate price and the lack of faith demonstrated by thinking that saving your physical life supersedes securing your eternal soul. Oh, yes, I know about salvation by grace, but I also know that Jesus said “if you deny me before men, I will deny you before my father who is in heaven.”

Words matter to God. They are the basis of oaths and covenants. In the beginning was the “Word” and the “word” was God. He spoke words and the world was created. He spoke words to seal an eternal covenant with Abraham. That “Word” is the same yesterday, today and forever. Could he possibly expect us to indulge the opposite in ourselves?

My father used to do business on a handshake. His word was his bond. “I gave him my word” meant something to him. How have we come to a place where saying what’s expedient to save ourselves is acceptable…even to Christians? Have we forgotten that having no other gods before him is the first commandment? Is there an escape clause to this when our lives are threatened?

Peter the disciple didn’t embrace another god; he just responded untruthfully, “I don’t know him.” I don’t know him!!?? By today’s fallen standards, Peter was just being smart….securing his safety. Just….”I don’t know him” was enough to cause Peter to weep bitterly for his betrayal and be forgiven deeply by the savior himself. Why all the fuss? Everyone would have known Peter didn’t mean what he said. After all…the others ran away.

In account after account from Daniel to Stephen to Martin Luther it’s always the same. “Just say you don’t believe. Just sign here. You can believe what you want…just say this…just sign this.” They gave their lives and endured torture to let their “Yeahs be yeah and their nays be nay.” Unwavering truth telling in the face of death.

In conversation after conversation with persecuted Christians in China, Vietnam, Russia and North Korea, I have seen the glowing faces of those who looked death in the face and held fast. Does God somehow require less of us? I don’t think so. To whom much is given, much is required.

My brothers and sisters, choose THIS day whom you will serve before the sword comes soon to persuade you differently.