Last summer in New York for the Summer Witnessing Campaign I was wearing a Jews for Jesus T-shirt and distributing tracts at the public library on Fifth Avenue. A man approached me and said, Christianity is for weaklings and wimps. You go to the average church, and most of the guys there have nothing going for them.”

Defensively, I pointed out that some of the world’s leading athletes were Christians. But after he left, I started thinking about his critical statement. There was too much truth to it. Too often I see flocks of weaklings in the churches who will not stand up for what they should, and like sheep, will allow false shepherds to fleece them.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek…,” not “Blessed are those who allow themselves to be cheated.” In doing our best to represent Christ, we must be loving and ethical, but we need not be wimps who allow the unethical to take advantage of us.

I recall a childhood lesson about standing up for one’s rights. One of my boyhood chores was grocery shopping for my mother. She always sent along a list and some money, and I was to put any change into the grocery bag. One day the change was seven cents short. After a thorough interrogation, my mother realized I had been shortchanged. She wrote the grocer a note, which I immediately took to the store. The grocer wrote back, “Your son must have lost the money on the way home.” My mother believed my protest that I had not lost it, and I began zipping back and forth between home and store with more notes. Although we were fairly poor, even in those Depression days seven cents was not worth as much energy as my mother was putting into the situation. When my aunt pointed that out, my mother said that if we allowed the grocer to get away with dishonesty, he would continue to do it, and everyone in the neighborhood would get shortchanged. I don’t remember if my mother ever got her seven cents back, but she had made her point. After that, we had no mere trouble with the grocer’s ability to count back correct change.

As an adult, I still remember my mother’s philosophy on letting others cheat me. Once during a preaching tour in Alaska, a car rental agency tried to charge me a $1 gas refill charge. I had just filled the tank and could not get another full dollar’s worth into it. The agency insisted on the charge, and I insisted on speaking to the manager. I missed my plane and it cost an extra $40 to book another flight, but I didn’t pay the refill charge. I gained more than a dollar victory. I gained a victory for all future rental customers who might meekly pay unwarranted charges rather than stand their ground and risk missing a flight. I wrote to the parent company of the rental service, the Anchorage Visitor’s Bureau, the American Automobile Association and several others. It cost eight or nine hours of work as well as the $40, but my mother would have been proud of me! More important, I think my Heavenly Father was pleased because I acted on principle.

“It’s none of your business,” or “Mind your own business” are not proper Christian sentiments. You won’t find them in the Book of Proverbs. There are times when the righteous ought to show anger. Worse yet, we Christians don’t teach the right reasons and right ways to express righteous indignation.

Instead, we hide behind the metaphor of being the flock of God and the sheep of his pasture. In sheep-like behavior, we blindly follow and uncomplainingly accept devastating and destructive wrongs.

Most Christians probably would not have done what I did at the car rental agency. Out of a misguided notion about Christlike meekness and humility, they would have paid the unjust charge just to avoid trouble.

Some might say I should not have spent time and money on that small matter because I ought to preach and teach the Bible rather than act as a consumer’s advocate. However, I feel I must not only preach what is right, but act on my responsibility to do right. This involves trying to prevent injustice and cheating.

Some might also argue that Christians ought to practice Christian grace. I agree, but grace does not mean allowing others to get away with wrongdoing. If you pay for something you do not receive, you can excuse or dismiss it, but you cannot forgive it. Forgiveness is only possible where there is repentance. If the wrongdoer will not admit doing wrong, there is no basis for grace and forgiveness.

It comes back to doing the right thing, even if it means extra trouble. Doing the right thing always costs what could be labeled “trouble” or “bother” by those who prefer not to do it. We have so many wimps and weaklings in the churches because under the pretext of forgiving, we exercise more laziness than grace. Wimpishly we excuse and dismiss.

Like many slang words, “wimp” doesn’t seem to have a precise definition. It seems to refer to someone so unassertive as to be undesirable. (You never see ads in the paper saying, “Wimp Wanted.” Even God, who invites the weak and the helpless, wants to change them by endowing them with his strength through the power of his Holy Spirit.)

I might dispute with that fellow at the library who scorned Christianity because of all the weaklings and wimps, but he had some powerful evidence on his side, particularly in the matter of a bold witness. Communists, cult members, representatives of pseudo-religions and psychological quacks who offer to cure society’s ills have no trouble asserting themselves. The devil’s team seems to have all the tough guys—all the varsity players—while we Christians seem to be strictly Little League, a team of naive children, or wimps who prefer the lesser identity!

We have so many wimps in the churches because we don’t help them be anything else. We don’t teach them to assert themselves in a Christlike manner. We should encourage them to be stronger, but maybe we don’t because some of us prefer to be around timid people. They allow us to do whatever we want and even hurry to do what we say because they think that “agreeable” is synonymous with “Christlike.” Not so! Christ was not agreeable to the self-righteous Pharisees.

Scripture teaches us to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. All too often, Christians are as wise as doves and as harmless as serpents! Wimps are not harmless. Their unassertiveness subtly hurts those who depend on them. There is a vast difference between proper humility and wimpish behavior.

Contrary to the blasphemous and disgusting portrayal of Christ in the recently released film The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus was no directionless wimp, nor were his followers. (I didn’t see the film. I wouldn’t muddy my mind with such trash, but I did read the reviews, and most of them said that aside from the controversial aspect, the film was boring.)

The Jesus described in those reviews is certainly not the Jesus I know from the Bible. The author and producers show Jesus as a vacillating, uncertain weakling who whimpers and wanders his way into destiny. That is far from any reality of Scripture. Jesus was no weakling. Yet many artists make him look like a well-groomed, pleasant, bearded woman. In order to dwell on Jesus’ great love, we tend to negate the stern, assertive side of his nature. We play down his confrontation of religious hypocrites and courageous defense of penitent tax collectors and harlots.

Jesus was assertive when occasion demanded it. More than one brave centurion of Jesus’ time was attracted to his authoritative manner, and ever since then, many strong and courageous people have followed him. Many professional athletes have championed the cause of Christ. There must be something strong about Jesus to win the admiration of those who identify themselves and are publicly recognized as the strong.

Strong athletes or soldiers are not attracted to weaklings, but to those who show courage and strength. Nevertheless, the truly strong and courageous know that real strength does not lie in the ability to deliver a blow. Virtually anyone can deliver a blow. Real strength lies in the ability to endure a blow delivered by another without needing to retaliate.

Jesus showed real strength when he was wronged and falsely accused. He showed strength when he endured spitting and insults and allowed himself to be nailed to a wooden post like a fish hung out to dry.

We find our true strength as Christians in following Jesus’ example of enduring and returning goodness for wrongs. On the other hand, Jesus was not afraid to speak out against evil. He was not afraid to incur the wrath of important people to champion God’s cause. As his followers, we must not be afraid to do the same when the occasion demands it.

We Christians need not be a team full of wimps. Jesus is captain of this team, and he’s no wimp!