Friday, March 28, 2014

Be a Voice, Not an Echo: Lessons from the Life of Tyndale



Life has not always been easy for Christians.

William Tyndale lived in England in the early 1500's, at a time when the Bible was only available to the most learned men who read Greek and Hebrew.  The lack of an English translation of the Bible was a great vexation to Tyndale, who saw grave corruption in many of the church leaders of the day.

The common person had no defense against their edicts, because they had no way of knowing what the Scripture really said.  There was a feeling that, "We would be better off without God's laws" than without the laws of the church leaders.

Tyndale was stunned and replied that he would "cause a plowboy to know more of the Scriptures" than the current leaders before he was through.  Tyndale's insistence upon lining up teaching in the church with the Word of God caused many leaders in England to hate him and brand him a heretic.

Because of plots against his life, Tyndale fled to Germany where he translated the New Testament and later the Old Testament into English.  The Bishop of London attempted to buy all the copies Tyndale had printed so that he could burn them, but Tyndale and his friends used the money to print three times as many Bibles as before.

Intending to squelch the spread of the Word, the Bishop actually helped spread it.  When that failed, Sir Thomas More, then Chancellor of England, did not rest until he had obtained a proclamation from the King to ban the Bibles and had arrested Tyndale.

In 1536, William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his all-consuming love of the Word of God and his dedication to ensuring its availability to the common man. His last words were a prayer for those who had persecuted him.  "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."

Tyndale's obsession for the Word of God has made this post, the Bible in your home, the online Bible we use, the Bible studies we attend possible.  As William Tyndale was tied to the stake and the flames rose up around him, he probably never imagined the number of English Bibles that would be available nearly 500 years later.  He was simply faithful to the cause of Christ with no promise of the outcome.  He did not see the fruit of his labors before his death.  The lack of obvious fruit did not deter him from faithfully performing the task God had given him.

After Tyndale's death, an amazing thing happened.  Less than two years later, King Henry VIII authorized the first English Bible, known as the Great Bible, for the Church of England.  That is amazing enough in itself, but what is really astounding is that the Bible he authorized was Tyndale's translation! God answered Tyndale's prayer in a wonderful way, and his work is still bearing fruit in my life and in yours today.

G.K. Chesterton wrote in What's Wrong With The World, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."  Micah 6:8 was my mother's favorite Bible verse, and it sums up what the Christian life looks like.  "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

William Tyndale was a man who cared about both mercy and justice. He was burdened by the ignorance of the masses about the Word of God and the injustices of the clergy of the time.  He knew he needed to put truth (in the form of the Word of God) in the hands of the masses so they could confront evil for themselves.  He was heartbroken by an injustice and took action to correct it.  In fact, his commitment to his task cost him his life.

There are still people around the world who are imprisoned for the cause of Christ.  There are still people around the world who are dying for the cause of Christ.  This quote from Wikipedia sums the situation up:

 "According to Pope Benedict XVI, Christians are the most persecuted group in the contemporary world.[125] The Holy See has reported that over 100,000 Christians are violently killed annually because of some relation to their faith.[126] According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith."[127] 

According to Voice of the Martyrs, Christians in more than forty countries face active persecution for their faith.  The stories on their website (www.persecution.com) will break your heart.  They will likely convict you, as well.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are sacrificing themselves for the cause of Christ, and in many instances dying for their faith.  Their discipleship is costly.  In this country, however, it is a much different story.  We complain about loss of religious liberty, but do we take advantage of the liberty we have?  How effective are we as disciples?  What difference are we making in the world around us?

Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God are not easy tasks.  It requires being salt and light in the world around you.  Silence about injustice is not optional if you are going to live out the Christian ideal, and neither is taking action.  Committing yourself to the task will change your life.  I know.  It has changed my life in ways I never imagined, many of which are harder than I expected, but sweeter than I ever hoped.

The first century Christians lived as if Jesus would return any day, and so should we.  Our discipleship should make a difference in the world around us.  If it does not, one could ask if it is discipleship at all. What are you doing to change the world around you?  Will the world be different 500 years from now because of your faith walk today?  That's the kind of difference I want to make.  Don't you?  I want to be a voice for Christ, not an echo of the world around me.  Being a voice for Christ was costly for William Tyndale, but judging by the Bibles in my home, I think it was worth it, and I expect he would say so, too.

The life and work of one man, doing one task faithfully, no matter the cost, still impacts my life on a daily basis five centuries later.  Let's live in such a way that we, too, can make a lasting difference.

Let's be a voice, not an echo.