Consider This by John Fischer


Two months ago, Senator Mark O. Hatfield from Oregon announced his
retirement after 45 years of public service. The news reports that carried
this announcement were full of praise for the senator’s character and
commitment. He was called, among other things, an iconoclast, a man of
principle, a man who stood for what he believed in despite public sway,
and a man whose word was reliable. As one reporter put it, “It’s common
knowledge around Washington, that if Mark Hatfield said it, you could take
it to the bank.”

What wasn’t mentioned, at least in these initial reports, was the fact
that throughout his years of public service, Senator Hatfield has remained
a committed Christian. His faith in Jesus Christ has been a quiet and
steady strength in his life, something he appears to have not wanted to
trumpet as much as live out. At times his faith has surfaced through his
writings and speaking engagements for various Christian institutions or
organizations, but he has not chosen to make his Christianity a selling
point, a platform, or a means of garnering votes from a certain segment of
the population.

Indeed, his personal convictions as a Christian have sometimes clashed
with the majority of other Christians in the country at the time, such as
when he opposed American involvement in Viet Nam and the Persian Gulf War.
His views sometimes went against those of his own constituency as well,
yet the voters of Oregon still continued to put him in Congress. That, in
itself, is probably the most remarkable tribute to him, that voters would
want to keep him in office for 45 years even if they disagreed with his

I make note of this man because I believe he represents a kind of
Christianity desperately needed today in and out of the public eye-in
essence a Christianity that is seen before it is heard. We have become a
society of words. Words and images and issues and posturing all carry
greater significance with this culture than do substance, commitment, soul
and hard work. Mark Hatfield has chosen to keep his words few when it
comes to his faith and adopt a sleeves-rolled-up approach to being a
public servant. And as he comes to the end of his political career, these
accolades to his character are a stronger witness of his faith in Christ
than words could ever be.

But what about his faith? Did he use his platform for the gospel? Did he
miss his chance? I would contend that, by being the kind of man and
politician that he was, Mark Hatfield performed an even greater service
for the gospel than if he were drawing attention to it every other day.
His way of spreading the gospel and being faithful to his calling as a
Christian was to be a great senator. He was not known for being a
Christian. He was known for being a fair-minded, trustworthy, principled,
hard-working peacemaker, and I would simply ask: What’s the difference? We
need more Christians who are known for being outstanding people.

I believe this is exactly what Peter, the apostle, had in mind when he
wrote to the early churches: “Always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But
do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that
those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be
ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3: 15-16).”

Unfortunately, Christians in the public eye, as of late, have been more
inclined to give reason for slander than reason to refute it. Some
of this, I believe, is because we have such a tendency to speak too soon.
We talk our faith long before we live it. Peter is talking about a life
that would refute slander and malicious talk by the contribution that life
makes in society. He is talking about a life that begs the question–that
acts out faith in love and good deeds before anything is ever said, so
that when something is said, it comes at the request of those who
have noticed something in a person worth finding out.

“Who can harm you if you are eager to do good (1 Peter 3:13)?” Think about
what could happen if Christians stopped beating up on the world and
started doing good in the world, not just to other Christians. Think about
he impact of a Christian man or woman quietly infiltrating society by
becoming influential as a philanthropist, a supporter of culture and the
arts, a protector of the environment, and a servant to the common man.
Suddenly you capture, as I did, a faith example that is quiet, effective,
consistent, and strong–a faith you can take to the bank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *