Balaam’s Woke Bandwagon
We live in an age in which massive swathes of social activism colour the landscape of our digital world. We haven’t had to scroll too far on our social media platforms in the last few years before we find someone pressuring us to get involved. These movements pick up speed, traction and popularity within hours of an event that happens across the country and even across the globe. Before we have even had time to think through the nuances of the situation, we are being told what to think and what to do with their smooth buzzwords and catchy hashtags.
The reality is, these movements are right on with some of the points they are making - but they aren’t right on on every point - and in some cases they are dead wrong. Sadly, however, many Christians are getting caught up in it all, whether through guilt, shame, a desire to fit in or out of solidarity because of the societal problems being exposed.
Within hours, before you know it, the train is leaving the station and we don’t want to be left behind in Bigotsville, Sexistville or Racistville with all the other exiles of this fast moving social phenomenon and so we share the hashtag, we change our profile picture, we add to our stories, we make the comments and use the arguments. All until the next train comes along and, before we know it, with our emotions pent up and whirring, we are rushed into that one too. Before you've got your head around one hashtag movement another has come demanding your allegiance.
But there is a better way.
Deep in the heart of the book of Numbers we meet a man called Balaam.
Balaam the Prophet
He is a seer; a prophet who claims to be a follower of the God of Israel (22v18). We learn from 2 Peter 2v15, however, that he was a prophet for gain, selling himself to the highest bidder.
The story goes that Balak, the Moabite king, feared Israel and hired Balaam to curse the Israelites so that he could defeat them in battle. Balaam tried to curse Israel four times, but God kept turning his attempts into a blessing over Israel instead (Deut 23v4-5, Josh 24v19-20).
What’s amazing is that Balaam prophesied truth over the nation of Israel. How could a wicked, selfish prophet be used to speak truth? Simple; God could use a crooked stick to draw a straight line. He was God’s creation, wired by Him and placed in God’s world.
What does Balaam have to do with these movements? Each of these movements do speak some truth. They do it, however, not because they are the source of truth, but because the movements are made up of people created by God, wired morally by God and living in God’s world. Although they are fallen sinners, the vestiges of being made in the image of God lingers in each of them. This means, like with Balaam, they are able to speak some truth.
Meet the Midianites and Moabites
It seems from the narrative in Numbers that Balaam just went home after not being able to curse Israel (Numbers 24v25).
The Kingdoms of Moab and Midian
But in the very next chapter we learn that the people of Israel have been led into sexual sin and idolatry with the Moabites and Midianites (25v1, 6). God’s rescued people, who had made a covenant with God that they would not worship other gods and wouldn’t commit sexual sin, had broken their word and had completely compromised themselves. They were called to be a light to the world by being different from the world; by being set apart. Instead, they had become just like the world and the message of the True God had been left outside in the dust.
Revelation 2v14 lets us in on a little clue; it was Balaam’s idea to draw the people of Israel into this rebellion against God and the covenant they made with Him. Not able to curse them, he found another way to get his wages; he lured them away from the truth. He couldn’t curse them, but he could get them to follow him where they shouldn’t have went, to do what they shouldn’t have done. This was his way of destroying Israel; assimilating them into the wicked kingdoms around them until their unique identity and message faded into obscurity.
Modern Moabites and Midianites
Similarly, these movements don’t lead to a good place in the end, though they do claim to. They are divisive movements, without a true understanding of sin, the gospel and the end goal. They are mostly driven by vitriolic hatred and a godless, graceless agenda. They don’t understand the real reason why there is injustice, inequality, and oppression in this world and therefore they don’t understand how injustice, inequality and oppression can be truly dealt with.
These Balaams are heading off on the train to a bad place. They aren’t taking anyone anywhere good. Like Pinocchio, they are being led deeper into slavery without even realising it, thinking they are off to Pleasure Island. By getting on the Balaam Bandwagon we are forgetting who we are as the people of God and becoming just like the world. Before we know it, our unique identity as followers of Christ is forgotten and our unique message of His gospel is left unspoken.
A Better Way
As Christians, we claim to follow the actual Source of Truth; God the Creator, Jesus Christ the Way, Truth and Life, the Holy Spirit of Truth. We, the Church of Christ, are actually described as the Pillar and Ground of Truth with the Bible, God’s written truth, in our hands. We don’t have to get on the bandwagon, we can lead the way, we can blaze the trial. We are part of a better movement.
We Have the Real Answer as to What is Wrong in the World
Sin has left the world of humanity in ashes. Since the fall in the garden we have mistrusted each other and treated each other with injustice, oppression and wicked selfishness. Each of us was born with a nature which is in rebellion to God and contrary to our fellow man. We aren’t righteous because we can see and point out the sin of others, it doesn’t take too long before you can find dirt on another person. And if you are honest, it doesn’t take too long to see it on you.
We Have the Real Answer as to How to Fix What is Wrong in the World
The gospel has the power to forgive sinners and to transform sinners into those who will obey God and love others. Shaming and guilt trips have no power to truly change a person. Education alone is not the answer. The Bible teaches that we are spiritually dead and spiritually enslaved. If I educate a corpse on how to breathe, how long before they get up and live? If I educate a prisoner on how to live free, how long before the shackles fall off and the dungeon door opens? We believe that the gospel has transforming power that radically changes a person. We believe there is true forgiveness, true reconciliation and true restoration found in Christ. We believe that, in Christ, the only things being cancelled is our sinful record and our sinful nature.
We Have the Real Answer as to How to End All That is Wrong in the World -
Think about this for a second; our movement is going to bring an end to all racism and xenophobia. Our movement is going to bring an end to all rape and abuse. Our movement is going to bring an end to all sexism and prejudice. Our movement is going to bring an end to every kind of injustice, oppression and inequality. Because the leader of our movement, King Jesus, is coming to bring an end to the curse, by rooting out sin completely.
Let's get as excited about our movement as we were about last months trending one. Let's get as passionate to share our message as we were to share the buzzwords of what was last in woke vogue. Let's get off the bandwagon, Christians, and herald Christ and His gospel. Let's stop being distracted by the glam and glitz of the latest shiny movement, following the Balaams to Midian and Moab. Yes they are speaking some truth, but you know the Truth - Follow Him. Declare Him.
Alan Campbell is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came to Christ as a young adult and trained for ministry at Bethesda Free Church, Sunderland. Alan ministered in Bethesda as the Associate Pastor until 2019 and now ministers at Union Chapel, Bath. From time to time he teaches at North Cotes (NTM/Ethnos 360) College and The Theological College of North Staffordshire. Alan travels across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the States speaking at universities and equipping churches and campus ministries to share the gospel in a post-modern context. He is passionate about helping the believer to root their identity more and more into the person and work of Jesus Christ. Alan is married to Victoria.