It’s been a long time friends! A big move to Texas with the fam has kept me occupied for quite awhile… we haven’t been in our house for months, and we have another three weeks until we we move into our new home. We are still in the thick of things and feeling pretty unsettled, but God has been faithful and patient with us. When my heart is a little quieter, I’ll write about what got us here in the first place, and the things God has done for us. Admittedly, I feel like I’m being shaken up in a snow globe right now, so will wait until there is some hindsight and clarity on that front.
I’m going to get warmed up by writing about something else near and dear to my heart, something that really hit me hard this past week: the importance of maturity and solid doctrine.
Before you doze off, hear me out. Difficult situations have a tendency to bring to the surface what we actually believe, and the world has no shortage of crises right now. I know a lot of us would just rather leave things alone and not stir the pot if we don’t need to. I know people who have unsubscribed from the news entirely. We are worn down and battle-tired. In a world where everyone seems to be engaged in everything, it can be hard to muster up the energy for another fight. One of my favorite verses of all time is this gem from 1 Thessalonians:
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
The quiet life… minding our business, working on our own things. Paul isn’t telling us to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the world, but he is showing us how reserving our knee-jerk reactions leads to a better witness for Christ. There’s something to be said about remaining calm and not blasting every rogue thought we have out for the world to see. There’s dignity in knowing when to keep quiet so that when we do finally speak, we are an echo of Jesus and not everyone else. Colossians 4:6 tells us to “Let your speech always be with grace.”
Over the weekend, we watched the great social media machine do it’s work as a Christian institution parted ways with an employee who violated their terms of conduct. The details vary based on which side you hear, as they always do. But what’s really in play here isn’t about a contract, it’s the age old question of “Did God really say…x, y and z? Do we really need to abide by these outdated ideas? It’s 2021, does this stuff really matter?” When you genuinely like and admire those involved, it clouds the mind even more.
Regardless of the specific topic du jour, it’s the issue we all face every day, and the thing we all disagree on the most. It took one post to ignite a perfect firestorm of criticism squarely aimed at those out of touch Christians. It burned hot and fast. Nothing gets the masses riled like perceived hypocrisy. Get on board, create a catch phrase, add your ‘like’ to the chorus of approval, wash, rinse, repeat.
In his book Losing Our Virtue, David Wells describes worldliness as “that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal.“
So as many predictably jump on an emotional bandwagon of social media empathy, I can’t help but think of what Proverbs says: “even the compassion of the wicked is cruel” (12:10). They will know us by our love, indeed… but does love mean we just gloss over blatant sin? Is there still a place for conviction in a culture that values abstract tolerance above all else?
I’m struck at the intensity with which we are so hostile to authority, clarity and truth. If you are over a certain age like I am (ahem) you may not realize the havoc that years of watered-down and false doctrine has had on the younger generations. The Gospel of ‘nice’ has all but neutralized the Gospel of Christ in many minds. Their arguments aren’t stronger, they are terrible in fact, but they are louder in every way.
I spent far too much time in the comment section reading blanket statements about who Jesus is or isn’t, about what Christianity is or isn’t… and none of it was based in anything other than feelings. Theology and doctrine really do matter. In the absence of Living Water, we become dried up and brittle. Easily offended. Easily blown off course.
A believers love for the truth should ignite in them a radical reaction towards falsehood. Not a knee-jerk, legalistic, hateful response… but a measured, obedient, loving and truthful one that rejoices when slandered and does not grow weary in doing good. The Lord is still on His throne whether you unfriend me or disagree with me. I am not offended nor do I aim to be offensive, but the Gospel will offend. It will demand death to all the sin we hold so dear, so that it may bring new life in its place. When everyone speaks in hashtags or cultural platitudes, we don’t need to join the chorus. If we speak, let it be of freedom and let us point to Christ who frees.
“Many tragedies occur when the world preaches to the church (and the church listens), and one is that false conversions multiply. We live in an evangelical world whose prophets may be convinced of gospel promises, but who are not necessarily converted under gospel truth. And what is the sermon topic that they preach? They preach sermons of questions, relocating what God calls sin into the category of aesthetics — the observation of beauty amidst the pain. They reject God’s truth as “bumper sticker” logic, and answer questions with more questions, with no answers, always favoring a sinner’s point of view over that of the crucified and risen Christ. Once leaders in the evangelical church locate something that God calls sin into an aesthetic framework, the great gift that the Lord Jesus holds out to his people, the gift of ransom and repentance, is no longer considered necessary. The blame shifts from a person’s sin to the church’s perceived prejudice.“Rosaria Butterfield
Be wise to this friends. Don’t let the world preach to you. Falsehood breeds more falsehood. Be slow to speak, but don’t be afraid to speak. Place a high value on good doctrine and be mature in your witness. It won’t make you legalistic, I promise, it will free you to be a useful vessel and to love your neighbor as Jesus actually said you should, both in word and in deed.