I’m an expat living in Thailand, and I believe that this requires me to change certain behaviors that are normal and comfortable to me in order to be culturally sensitive. When the Thai national anthem or the king’s song plays, everyone is supposed to stand (including foreigners) out of respect.
If I hear either song, I stand. It’s a sign of respect to the country that is allowing my family to live on its soil.
In the mornings when I’m in town, I walk the kids to school and then sit for half an hour or so doing my quiet time in the school’s courtyard.
At 8 a.m. each day the large Thai school across the street from our school plays the national anthem. I always stand, but many times I’m the only one. The other foreigners typically continue their conversations, and even the Thais working at our school stop what they are doing only occasionally.
Standing is a simple gesture, but when you are the only one doing it, it’s easy to feel foolish. I look around at everyone doing their own thing and I wonder,
Am I overdoing this respect thing? If no one else is doing it, maybe it’s not really expected. I wonder if they are laughing at me. Maybe they are thinking that I’m being pretentious. Does it really even matter if I stand or not?
After all, there are plenty of excuses for not standing. The music is a little hard to hear. It’s not playing at our school. I’m not Thai. The Thais don’t even stand sometimes. No one seems to care. I’m having a conversation. I’m tired. My leg hurts …
I had an experience like this today, and I spent some time thinking afterward. Being a Christian is a little like standing for the Thai national anthem. When you take a stand for God, you will often look foolish to the world around you.
You are standing for music they may not be able to hear, and for reasons they don’t particularly understand. Even some of the Christians around you aren’t taking a stand for God.
It’s easy to second-guess yourself:
Am I being too strict about the movies my kids watch and the music they listen to? Am I naive to think my kids could possibly make it to marriage without having sex? Am I throwing my money away when I tithe to the church? Am I being pretentious by claiming that there is only one way into heaven and His name is Jesus Christ?
These doubts and questions are part of the cost of taking a stand for God. If it were easy, everyone would do it, right? Of course, God could strike down anyone who didn’t take a stand, but He doesn’t.
He doesn’t, because then EVERYONE would stand. They wouldn’t be standing because they loved the Lord; they would be standing out of fear and compliance. Those aren’t the types of followers God is looking for. He loves us too much to force us to “love” Him back.
When you take a stand for something, you have to be willing to pay the price. Without cost, there is no sacrifice. As King David said when Araunah offered him his threshing floor, oxen, wood and wheat for free in order to make an offering,
“No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” – 1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV)
The value of the sacrifice is tied to how much it costs you.
The foolishness you sometimes feel when taking a stand for God is part of your sacrifice. But you can take comfort in this scripture:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. – 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NIV)
One day, every stand you took for the Lord will be seen for what it was: wisdom, love, honor, respect, readiness, strength, adoration, devotion, courage, faith. Insist on paying the full price.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. — 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)
This post was originally published in Nov. 2009 on Michael’s personal blog, Build Your Walls! Guard Your Gates!