A couple of weeks ago at Highland, Richard Beck preached a sermon in which he explained that Christ calls us to a life of actively resisting the evil around us. He read from William Stringfellow’s response to meeting members of the French resistance movement in the years following World War II, in which Stringfellow is perplexed by the seemingly-meaningless actions of The Resistance on a day-to-day basis–insignificant actions that could not possibly have impacted the Nazi war machine. Stringfellow’s conclusion was that “resistance became the only human way to live.”
As I listened to Richard’s sermon, I thought about the lesson I had learned from Ephesians 6 (which I shared in my previous post), feeling that the word “resistance” applies precisely to what Paul calls us to in that chapter.
And then I began thinking of Daniel, one of my favorite Bible heroes. In the first chapter, Daniel has been taken as a captive to Babylon along the best and brightest young men in Israel, all of whom are to be trained and kept as servants of the king. The king had decreed that these young men would receive food and wine from his own table, but “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine,” and so he asks the officials to give him vegetables and water instead. In her study of Daniel, Beth Moore explains that Daniel’s act of defiance is significant because Daniel recognizes that accepting the king’s food would tempt him to embrace the Babylonian lifestyle of self-indulgence.
This seemingly small act of resistance allows Daniel to remember who he is, where he’s from, and God’s high calling in his life. It also sets him up for the big acts of resistance later that have significant impact on others. His little act of resistance, which could never possibly change the Babylonian empire in and of itself, is the only way for Daniel to live and remain true to himself and his God.
And so I’ve been pondering resistance lately, and I’ve realized that some of the choices I make are, for me, acts of resistance.
For example, a couple of years ago, I stopped buying clothes made in countries that do not have fair labor laws (unless it’s Fair Trade). Which is pretty much everywhere outside of fully developed nations. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but it built up in my heart for months and months before I finally decided to act on it. I simply couldn’t bear the idea of any man, woman, or child suffering through slave-like conditions simply so that I could indulge my vapid desire for inexpensive fashion.
At first, shopping was a pretty frustrating process. It had been hard enough already for me to find clothes that fit my body, my sense of style, and my penny-pinching pocketbook; now, it seemed virtually impossible to find anything that met my demanding criteria. But then, to my everlasting surprise, I began to find tops that were perfect for me in terms of style and fit, tops that could be dressed up, dressed down, worn anywhere, tops that were less than $10 (at Ross), tops that were made in the USA! I found more nice clothes that I loved in the months following my resolve than I had in the previous year, maybe two, and I felt blessed and affirmed in my actions.
The limitations and failings of my form of protest have been pointed out to me, and I am aware of the impracticality of ideals in a fallen world. But the truth is, resistance doesn’t have to be practical. It doesn’t have to be a huge success. I know that checking clothing tags will not magically right the injustice rampant in the clothing industry.
But that’s not really the point.
The point is that resistance, however insignificant on a grand scale, has become the only human way, the only Christ-like way for me to live in this dark world.