There’s a fantastic article today over at The Gospel Coalition discussing the ins and outs of standing up for Truth (with a capital T) in a way that is effective and not destructive. “How to Defend the Gospel from Its Enemies – and Friends” gives us some good pointers on navigating our way through a culture full of lies and half-truths while keeping our wits and dignity about us.
Here’s the crux of the problem: We don’t want to be Christian wallflowers who sit in the corner while the world burns, wringing our hands and waiting for Jesus to return. We’ve been “entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thess.2:4) to go out and proclaim the good news. Proclaiming, however, doesn’t mean carelessly flinging out every opinion and engaging in every argument. Wars are waged over the inter webs nowadays, battles are fought, won and lost over strokes on a keyboard. The careless pot-stirrer must learn to “correct with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24) or run the risk of becoming totally irrelevant.
I think we’ve all been on both sides at some point. We take a back seat on certain issues because they either don’t affect us directly or because they seem too big an obstacle to overcome. Other times, something hits our hot button and it’s off to the races:
Just off the top of my head:
-A ‘Christian’ author goes to nauseatingly great lengths to contort and twist scripture to make it more palatable for a new generation, denying the Word says what it says and sugar-coating it to the great approval of thousands. (HOT BUTTON)
-Crazed women running around by the thousands screaming about rights and dignity while preaching how great abortion is. (HOT BUTTON)
-Loud chip crunching by your husband late at night (HOT BUTTON, but for another time…)
I digress. On any given day, just pick your outrage, for there’s plenty to be outraged about. The difference between “us” and “them” however, needs to be noticeable. For the sake of leading others to the truth and for the sake of preserving our own sanity… we must know how to engage (and disengage) Biblically.
The first point in the article is one I love and never even considered:
It’s a privilege to even have this problem to wrestle with.
It doesn’t feel like a privilege when your kid comes home and asks “why was there a man dressed as a woman in the bathroom at the bowling alley?” (True story… time to engage.)
It doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy when you hear what crude words and topics are floating around the elementary school playground and have to bump up your imagined parental speech schedule by a few years. (Time to engage.)
It can seem like you’re always walking uphill, the wind in your face, fighting and wearing down with every step. I have no good tidings to bring on this subject – it’s not going to get easier or better. Until Jesus comes back, culture and the world are heading toward decay and disorder. But take heart:
“God has surely smiled on us, placing into our hands the stewardship of his truth here in this day when the world denies the validity of any truth. May we be fully pleasing to the Lord in how we handle our sacred trust in such a time as this!” Ray Ortlund
So when we feel like we’ve stepped through the looking glass into an upside-down world, may we be encouraged that we’ve been entrusted with such a task from a God who equips and provides all the tools we need to navigate our way through it. It’s good to stir things up, a settled pot burns at the bottom, so keep stirring kids.
There is of course another side to that, and the closing point the author makes is a good one:
Ugliness Can’t Defend Beauty
Sometimes, we just need to let it go. Drop the chalupa, back away from the keyboard, the meeting, the person, whatever. Paul warns us to “have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 22-23). The ones who stand against us often have no desire to hear, only to be heard. We need to discern the difference. As much as that nutty women’s march agitated me, I’d never desire to go mono e mono with a woman dressed as a giant you-know-what who can only shout obscenities. No thanks. The same should apply to our everyday encounters. Is it worth it? Am I glorifying God or my ego? Ugliness can’t defend beauty. Being a warrior for Christ-less Christianity won’t move any hearts, it will only harden them.
We are warriors, but not the self-serving kind. That junk belongs to the world. Believe it or not, God doesn’t actually rely on our persuasive talents, but He does desire we be good stewards of His Word. Period. No talent or bravery needed. Only a pure desire to share His good news in a graceful and truthful manner. There are crazy talented authors out there, but it’s a challenge to find one with a solid grasp on the truth. Why? Because they can rely on their big, talented, witty selves. There’s no room for Bible truth when your goal is self-promotion. You have too many people to please.
So how about we position ourselves somewhere between the wallflower and the pot-stirrer? How about letting Jesus work HIS truth the way HE wants right up through our very souls so that it pops out of our mouths (or keyboards) just the way He would want? Not too harsh. Not wishy-washy. Just right. I’ll close with the great Charles Spurgeon, who says it more eloquently than I ever could:
“The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.”