On January 23, 2002, Minneapolis pastor and prolific author John Piper (1946 – ) urged his congregation at Bethlehem Baptist Church to strive for justice throughout their lives. In the wake of both National Sanctity of Human Life Day (January 20) and the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 21), Piper called for “coronary” Christians. Reflecting on his ministry among them for more than twenty years, he reminded them that God’s people were to prize racial harmony and human life wholeheartedly throughout their lives and not simply in fits and starts.
I am glad for adrenaline; I suspect it gets me through lots of Sundays. But it doesn’t do much for Mondays. I am more thankful for my heart. It just keeps on serving—during good days and bad days, happy and sad, high and low, appreciated and unappreciated. It never lets me down. It never says, “I don’t like your attitude, Piper, I’m taking a day off.” … Coronary Christians are like the heart in the causes they serve. Adrenal Christians are like adrenaline—a spurt of energy and then fatigue. What we need in the cause of racial justice and justice for the unborn is coronary Christians. Marathoners, not just sprinters. People who find the pace to finish the (life-long) race.
O, for coronary Christians! Christians committed to great Causes, not great comforts. I pleaded with you to dream a dream bigger than you and your families and your churches. I tried to un-deify the American family and say that our children are not our cause; they are given to us to train for the great causes of mercy and justice in a prejudiced, pain-filled, and perishing world.
Desiring to witness a “never-say-die, Christian commitment to great causes,” Piper pointed his flock to the one Englishman who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the abolition of the slave trade—the “deeply Christian, vibrantly evangelical, and passionately political,” William Wilberforce.
Now there was a coronary Christian in the cause of racial justice. . . Battle after battle in Parliament he was defeated, because “The Trade” was so much woven into the financial interests of the nation. But he never gave up and never sat down. He was coronary, not adrenal. On February 24, 1807 … the decisive vote was cast (Ayes, 283, Noes, 16) and the Slave Trade became illegal. The House rose almost to a man and turned towards Wilberforce in a burst of parliamentary cheers, while the little man with the curved spine sat, head bowed; tears streaming down his face (John Pollock, Wilberforce, p. 211). . . .
The coronary Christian, William Wilberforce, never gave up. There were keys to his relentlessness. The greatness and the certainty of the rightness of the cause sustained him. . . . He saw that adrenal spurts would never prevail: “I daily become more sensible that my work must be affected by constant and regular exertions rather than by sudden and violent ones” (Pollock, p. 116). He had learned the secret of being strengthened, not stopped, by opposition. One of his adversaries said, “He is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that Enthusiastic spirit, which is so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows” (Pollock, p. 105). . . .
Most of all, the secret of his coronary commitment to the great Cause was his radical allegiance to Jesus Christ. He prayed—and may this prayer rouse many coronary lovers of Christ to fight racism and abortion with unwavering perseverance—“[May God] enable me to have a single eye and a simple heart, desiring to please God, to do good to my fellow creatures and to testify my gratitude to my adorable Redeemer” (Pollock, p. 210).1
1 John Piper, “A Call for Coronary Christians,” Desiring God Ministries, January 23, 2002