Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Unwinnable people

He [Oliver Cromwell] said: “I see there is a people risen, that I cannot win either with gifts, honors, offices or places; but all other sects and people I can.

While many of us only vaguely remember all the details of Oliver Cromwell, the English Civil War, and anything else that happened in the 1600s, I saw this quote and thought it was worth bringing up anyway. Just to provide context, the mid-1600s saw a civil war in England between those loyal to the King and supporters of democracy. For a time, the rebels won and placed Oliver Cromwell as the Protector of the Realm, but they eventually were driven from power. (That's, um, so simplified it's scary. The Wikipedia article seems fair enough, and there are several books on the subject.)

Cromwell intended to win loyalty and supporters the same way the monarchy had: by rewarding men with material wealth, temporal power, and fancy titles. It worked for many.

Except, apparently, one group. The quote above is from George Fox, founder of the Quakers. No, not the oat company, the religious group called the Society of Friends. Among the religious changes in the 17th Century, the Friends were probably the most radical group that didn't turn into raving lunatics. They abandoned all of the pomp and formality of the Church and sought to be plain, simple, and always honest.

This caused them no end of grief from the powers-that-be in England. The monarchy disliked their lack of "respect" to the king, the people weren't sure what to make of them, and their pacifism was often mistaken for treason and cowardice.

Yet that one sentence testimony from Cromwell is worth noting. No matter what he offered, Cromwell could not sway the Quakers to his side. They chose to follow only what they believed God had instructed them to do. In some ways, this meant supporting the monarchy and in others supporting the revolution, but in all ways this mean keeping their commitments.

Whatever else could be said of the theology held by the Society of Friends or their practices, I should at least learn from this. What price can buy my loyalty? I struggle with that question. I hold certain principles to be very important, but what would I trade them for? Offices, titles, lands, and money?

This is something we need to consider, all of us. If you can imagine a price you would "sell-out" for, even if it's an insane number, then you're for sale, it's just a matter of negotiation.

My integrity and commitment should belong so wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ that it's not even mine to sell or trade. If you're a follower of Christ, the same is true of you. We need to be people that are committed to that, no matter who takes over the realm.


William J. Federer, Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced According to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).

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