Not long ago I saw some graffiti that read “It’s time to take a stand!” The writer didn’t say a stand on what, on whether one should be for or against the death penalty, be a member of a particular political party, or lobby for vanilla ice cream rather than chocolate at the next public event. All that was written was that a stand was now necessary. In the Old Testament Joshua requires the people to decide whether they will serve the Lord or some other God, and in the gospel Jesus asks the Apostles whether they will stay with him or leave him as some of the other disciples are doing.
In both cases, a stand is required. When you think about it, taking a stand is freeing because what might have previously been grey becomes black and white. Once you and I know where we stand, we no longer have to hedge our bets or try to cover all the bases. A stand, which is another way of talking about a commitment, gives us direction and focus and keeps us from diddling around the periphery of things. Taking a stand frees us from wondering where to stand. So every once in a while people of faith choose to stand up and be counted, even when it costs us something. For example, when minorities move into our neighborhood, we stand up to fears of declining property values and choose not to move out. When others bulldoze the poor, we stand firm in support of the weakest. When we’re tempted to tinker with compromise for the sake of a promotion, we decide to stand for the values of Jesus instead. Most folks have opinions, believers take stands. Of course there are others who take stands—upon comfort or profit or even upon some transitory glitter. But stands by believers are taken with a different vision, one of Spirit, because we have come to recognize that it is the Spirit who gives life and not the flesh, as Jesus reminds us.