Many idioms first began from surveying the natural world around us. We have all seen violets, and at first glance, they do seem to look as though they are shrinking, growing smaller, as it were. Taken from a figurative sense, when a person is called a “shrinking violet”, it may mean an individual who shrinks from responsibility; whereas, cowardice and unassertiveness is often associated with it. This expression had appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper The Titusville Herald as early as in November 1870 where it wrote about a man who had tricked others into giving him their property deeds. He was later described as a “shrinking violet” after being apprehended and brought to justice where he begged to be pardoned.
Recently, our political leaders have either legislated or are in the process of making laws that will quicken our moral descent into evil. For the Believer, it may be tempting to become Sunday only Christians, if we have not done so already. It does appear many are satisfied to attend Church Sunday after Sunday and give little thought about prayer meetings and evangelistic outings. I think we all know that the Church must not fade from view, but needs to have a vital presence in the world. In his letter to Titus, Paul says seven different times that the churches were to continue to do good works, and that, in spite of being among Cretans, reputed to be among one of the worst peoples of that period, situated on an island about a third bigger than that of P.E.I.. Even with intense darkness all about them, Christians were expected to do good works under these morally repressive conditions.
Paul made sure that the Believers heart is committed to it, since he describes the manner in which good works are to be performed: “to love what is good”, “eager to do what is good” and “to be devoted to doing what is good” (see 1:8; 2:14; 3:14). Whereas to see the plight of the 1st century Church and to go as far back as Noah’s encounter with a world of dissenters and haters of God, none of us should accept the notion that our present conditions is just far too difficult for us to be persistent in our performance of righteous deeds, that somehow we are not cut out for these things. James Robison puts it succinctly: “Freedom’s future rests on the shoulders of bold people who will not be silent about truth and the absolute principles upon which it stands. As a Christian I believe the future of our freedom depends upon true believers waking up and standing up like New Testament Christians”. Redemption has not only liberated us from guilt and judgment but has produced in us moral purity and the ability to perform good deeds and service (2:14). So in lieu of recent happenings in legislature and in our culture where euthanasia, transgenderism and drug legalization are quickly gaining appeal and approval, let us not shrink from our part in fulfilling God’s plan to purify for Himself a people that are his very own, to do what is good (2:14b).
Today, conditions may seem overwhelming. They had been far worse in the early centuries where the church was able to stand for the truth. Poverty, unfairness, and persecution are nothing new. The Christians on the island of Crete were expected to live righteous lives and let the light of their good works shine outward, in probably as bad a civilization as can be imagined, where violence was widespread and darkness had prevailed, at least seemingly. Things were so bad that robbing people on their way to cities was considered honourable. It was known abroad that if any nation needed mercenaries, men who could kill unmercilessly, that such could be found on this remote outcrop on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Paul described the population as a consolidated group of liars, brute beasts, and lazy glutons (1:12). You would think that if any had a right to shrink from the spiritual battle it would be these island based Believers. Instead of retreat, they were to persevere in their faith in some of the worst unimaginable conditions, so we have to ask ourselves what excuse do we have to keep from engaging?
Isaiah’s words are prophetic “They that dwell in darkness, upon them has the light shined. They that live in the land of deep darkness, unto them a great light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2). Christians understand that in any age and under any conditions no matter how bad things may get the gospel is still the only hope for the world. Whether in the 1st century, during Isaiah’s period, or today, the story is the same, the world lies in darkness and needs salvation. Despair and idolatry has penetrated the whole world; men have turned away from the true God, hopelessness, unbelief and wickedness lay like a heavy blanket upon the earth. “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice … of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31).
What shall we do then? Who shall go? Be courageous Christian and take your position. The battle is on and God has called you to it.
“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14). Stop making excuses for your inactivity, thoughtlessness, and indifference. Remind yourself that the best practices during declining moral conditions have not changed – stay the course and be a bold witness for Christ.