The first pamphlet of “The Crisis” was published on December 23, 1776. The beginning of the opening paragraph provides an abundance of food for thought. Thomas Paine wrote:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.
Paine’s depiction of a “summer soldier” or “sunshine patriot” in the second sentence makes it evident that this is not going to be a warm and fuzzy document. Using a persuasive appeal Paine utilizes ethics, emotion, and logic to captivate the attention of the reader in an attempt to move the individual into action. Our society today is in desperate need of such a passionate plea. Unfortunately, I believe many people in contemporary culture have a severely limited grasp of history, and even fewer embrace the philosophical and theological assertions so generally accepted two centuries ago. Can a comparison be made today between tyranny and hell if there is no longer a belief in hell by a large segment of the population?
The words of Thomas Paine in this paragraph have the potential to ignite the flame of love in every Christian believer. Some would say that it is harder and harder to be a faith-filled Christian in our secularized society. Christians are being pushed further and further to the edges of society and are even being labeled as a hate group when they stand up for traditional family values. I agree with Thomas Paine that we can take consolation in knowing that “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” The gift of faith is not something we should esteem too lightly. Maybe the challenges we face as Christian believers will enhance the dearness of the gift of faith.
During the Advent season we have heard Scripture readings in which John the Baptist has been a prominent figure. John the Baptist was the “voice” crying out in the wilderness. One commentary stated that it is the role of the “voice” to awaken us, to startle us. It is the role of the “Word” (Jesus Christ) to instruct us. Have we been sufficiently awakened by the “voice” so we can hear the “Word” speak to us? Has the passion and fire of John the Baptist exhorting us to bear good fruit as evidence of our repentance inspired us to holiness? Thomas Paine effectively called people to patriotism; John the Baptist reminds us of our ultimate call to sanctity!