Last evening was a hymn sing at our home. One of the children chose the hymn "The Banner of the Cross," which I don't believe we've sung very often. Here are the words to the first two verses and the chorus:
1. There’s a royal banner given for display
To the soldiers of the King;
As an ensign fair we lift it up today,
While as ransomed ones we sing.
Marching on, marching on,
For Christ count everything but loss!
And to crown Him king, we’ll toil and sing,
’Neath the banner of the cross!
2. Though the foe may rage and gather as the flood,
Let the standard be displayed;
And beneath its folds, as soldiers of the Lord,
For the truth be not dismayed!
RefrainThe lyrics were written in 1884 by Daniel W. Whittle. They are timely today. When we were singing I immediately thought of Barronelle Stutzman . I also thought of her when we sang "Dare to Be a Daniel."
Why did people write those songs? They wrote them because they realized that Christians need encouragement, and the hymns were supposed to offer that encouragement, that spine stiffening.
What struck me was that in our own time it is less likely that such lyrics would be written because too many Christians are afraid of sounding too sure that we know what God wants us to do. To apply a song like "The Banner of the Cross" to a concrete situation like that of Barronelle Stutzman requires confidence that she is displaying the banner of the cross, that she is fighting the good fight, and, most controversial of all, that her opponents represent "the foe." In short, such songs come from an era when we were not worried about identifying the foe and the fight. I really don't imagine that anybody wrote to Daniel W. Whittle and told him that he was being presumptuous and "demonizing" his opponents. Yet that's exactly the sort of advice Christians give Christians now--don't think in us-them terms, don't think of those who are on the other side (of the abortion issue, of the homosexual rights issue, of any issue) as "the Other."
It is a breath of fresh air to open a hymnal and sing a song that tells us that all will be well, that heartens us, that says, "Though the foe may rage, display the standard! Wave the banner! For the truth be not dismayed! We are fighting the good fight, and the Lord is with us. Stand up for what is right."
And in the meanwhile, for Christ count everything but loss. That line is in there too. Barronelle Stutzman may lose all her worldly goods. She counts it all but loss, as the Apostle Paul wrote,
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; Philippians 3:7-10Stutzman wrote the following to Bob Ferguson, the State Attorney General who has tried to induce her to promise "not to discriminate" in the future in return for his dropping the case in return for a small fine:
You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.She knew when the moment came, she heard the call, she has answered the call. May God grant us grace to follow her example and not to be dismayed for the truth.