Monday, May 26, 2008

Losing Friends and Influencing People

And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (II Cor 2:16-17).

Granted extra time by Memorial Day Weekend, we began reading The Life of John Murray. An inaugural professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, John Murray was one of the leading Reformed commentators and theologians of the last 100 years. Instrumental to J. Gresham Machen during the fundamentalist - modernist schism of the early 20th century Presbyterian controversy, he was a stalwart of orthodox teaching until his death in 1975.

Yet, it was Murray's steadfast refusal to violate his conscience before God, even when it meant forsaking his vocational desires and valued associations, that most strikes contemporary eyes as an artifact of bygone eras. His clarity of commitment in Christian leadership is strangely unique to the present-day, as evangelical leaders frequently demonstrate negotiable consciences and varied allegiances (see this previous post for an example).

It may be that John Murray learned such "heroic honesty" from Machen, his mentor and friend:
A true Reformation would be characterized by just what is missing in the Modernism of the present day; it would be characterized above all by an heroic honesty which for the sake of principle would push all consideration of consequences aside.

- What is Faith?, p. 103.
Or maybe Murray was just a Christian leader. And so he understood that the watershed of God-glorifying influence was pursuing integrity in personal conviction over personal convenience.
It would sometimes be to our apparent advantage to suppress the testimony to certain aspects of truth, to soft-pedal on matters which wake the dissent and even provoke the ire of many people. Many things for which we stand are unpopular and we lose friends. Sometimes we are tempted to stand for things which the counsel of God does not warrant and we could gain a great deal of popular support by standing for them. We cannot do it, for we must not go farther than the counsel of God. The whole counsel of God but nothing more. The counsel of God and nothing less.

- John Murray, quoted in The Life of John Murray, p. 84.
The mantle of Christian leadership is not a matter of personal sufficiency, for all say with Paul, "And who is adequate for these things?"! Rather, it is a grace to so refuse to be "not like many" and to speak sincerely from a sufficient Word, to speak conciously of the all-glorious God, and to speak under the Lordship of the only Christ. May He grace many of this generation to be leaders and to pursue the integrity of conviction of John Murray... even if they must do so alone.

(More lessons from The Life of John Murray to come, but take some time to peruse some of his writings and sermon audio through the external links at his Wikipedia entry).


  1. Excellent point! It is exactly at these fine points that compromise slips into our lives. Being a friend of God highlights the need for clarity in our friendships with men.

  2. "Being a friend of God highlights the need for clarity in our friendships with men."

    Thank you for that helpful (and true!) phrase on friendship. Maybe you are thinking of James 4:4? "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" Interesting that James says this in the context of pursuing positions in the local assembly (cf. 3:1, 16).