What would you do if you went to church one Sunday and found that an imam who was attempting to Islamize your country and to bring your faith under subjection to Islam was giving the opening prayer? What would God have you do? And what if you had been seeing many other churches, compromising with secularism and religious pluralism, losing their Christian witness?
This is what happened at the Memorial Church of the Reformation in the Rhineland city of Speyer, built to honor Martin Luther:
- When the Muslim imam began his call to prayer during the concert, he was interrupted by a small woman [with her banner] in the balcony proclaiming that "Jesus Christ alone is Lord of Germany.”
Others tried to reassure Heidi Mund that "This is a concert for peace." However, she understandably remained adamant:
- "No it's not! Allahu Akbar [which is what the imam had prayed] is what Muslims scream while murdering people! Don't be fooled! Don't be fooled! This is a lie!"
As I thought about this, I envisioned parasites eating at the foundation of my home, and no one seemed to be concerned about it as long as the house was still standing. I could imagine someone reassuring me, “Don’t worry. Soon the termites will be full and will stop eating.”
I knew that that wasn’t true. They would only stop eating once there was no more house to consume! Instead, I likened myself to the priest Phineas, who, when seeing the Israelite men cavorting with the Moabite women, determined to stop this horrid defilement of the people of God at any cost, even with a spear (Num. 25:7).
However, would Phineas’ methods coincide with the teachings of the New Testament? Would Mund’s methods coincide? I recalled the many verses calling for gentleness, patience, peacefulness and non-offensiveness.
I began to wonder whether the peaceable New Testament was so radically different from the combativeness of the Old, but perhaps not. Jesus never shied away from confronting others with their sins, sometimes using highly offensive words like “hypocrite” or “children of Satan.” And He even resorted to physical force, overturning tables and driving the traders out of the Temple with a whip. Should His life be a model for us?
But perhaps Jesus’ example doesn’t apply to us. After all, does things that are inappropriate for us. He calls the dead out of the grave and judges. So perhaps we would be mistaken to follow His example in every regard. However, the Apostles also weren’t kittens. They were bold in carrying forth the will of God, especially when it came to the governing of the church. Let’s look, for example, at Paul’s instructions to Titus about the selection of elders:
- He [the elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach. (Titus 1:9-11)
Paul taught that elders had to silence mouths/teachings for the sake of the church. In light of this, perhaps Mund’s interruption was a matter of righteousness. However, she wasn’t an elder. Did this disqualify her?
In the Book of Revelation, God gave seven churches the results of His spiritual examination. He criticized two of these churches – at Pergamum and Thyatira – because they had tolerated teachings they shouldn’t have tolerated:
- “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.” (Rev. 2:14)
- “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Rev. 2:20)
There are clearly limits to tolerance and peaceable-ness. Besides, it wasn’t merely the pastors or the elders who were held to account but the entire church. Each was their brothers’ keeper, and, consequently, all were responsible for the health of the church. Similarly, our Lord praised the church at Ephesus for their exercise of spiritual oversight:
- “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” (Rev. 2:2)
We “cannot endure” false doctrine within the church. Nor would Heidi endure this! As Paul taught Titus, such teachers “must be silenced,” since they were “disrupting whole households” with their teachings.
However, Paul also made a sharp distinction between our conduct towards those in the church and those on the outside. In His letter to the Corinthian church, Paul chastened them for not taking the appropriate action against the sin in their midst, warning them that just a little bit of unchecked sin will undermine the entire church (1 Cor. 5:6):
- I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Cor. 5:9-13)
According to Paul, those who are part of the church must be disciplined if they remain unrepentant. However, God would discipline those outside of the church. In a similar way, James taught us to correct, not simply tolerate, the brethren:
- My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
All of this argues that we should be more proactive about our church involvement, even to the point of defending the Gospel (Jude (3). However, Mund traveled to another church and disrupted their service. Did she overstep scriptural boundaries? There is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that our responsibility for the church stops outside of the walls of our own church. Instead, we are all brethren, all part of the same spiritual body headed by Christ.
Perhaps then, Mund had a biblical responsibility for all those who consider themselves brethren, but she was also disruptive. Are there any Scriptural grounds for this? Yes, in certain rare, clear, and extreme circumstances. For example, Paul opposed Peter in the midst of a church fellowship:
- When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray… I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. (Gal. 2:11-14)
Paul justified this public correction of Peter in several ways:
2. His actions were harmful to the church and Gospel.
3. He was acting in a hypocritical way and was leading others into this same hypocrisy.
4. It was a situation that was presently taking place and, therefore, needed to be addressed in the present.
Mund’s bold intervention was in line with all of these concerns. Extreme apostasy requires extreme measures. The German church and the German Christians have become apostate – as have many Christians in the West - and require some extreme shaking. In light of this principle, we can better appreciate Jesus’ harsh words against the religious leadership:
- “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Mat. 23:33)
However, our responsibility to boldly proclaim and embody the Gospel does not stop within the walls of the church. The Apostles had been forbidden to openly preach Christ. However, this is just what they did! They opposed the authorities of their day. However, they were able to justify their “disobedience” in terms of their allegiance to a higher Authority:
- But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
- Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5:29)
When our responsibility to God collides with our responsibility to the State, God must be honored, even if it places our lives in jeopardy.