If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue—homosexuality, for example—preface your remarks with a question.
You say: “You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking, and I’d be glad to answer. But before I do, I want to know if you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person. Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse ideas, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from yours?” Let them answer. If they say they’re tolerant (which they probably will), then when you give your point of view it’s going to be very difficult for them to call you intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too.
This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view they think is right and everybody judges at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in any kind of morality.
Watch TV and you’ll hear the Name of God the Father and God the Son mocked, used in vain, used to curse, and many other ways that deny the holiness, beauty, majesty, power, glory, and wonder of who He is. Watch movies and listen to music and you’ll find the same things. In fact, go out into the marketplace and you’ll hear these same abuses of the beautiful Name of our Savior. And yet, short of boycotting some products or writing letters/emails or phoning TV stations or sending petitions, you’ll not really see any other visible demonstration of outrage from Christians.
And yet, throughout the world we see angry people causing all manner of evil due to the denigration of the name of their prophet. What’s the difference? Why don’t Christians burn down things when Jesus is mocked? Just a few thoughts…
1. There is coming a day when Jesus will make all things right and all who were mockers of His Name will bow at His Name and confess He is Lord. There is a sense in which I don’t have to defend the honor of Jesus’ Name…He’s quite capable of defending Himself, thank you. And on that day when every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father, the mockers will be put to shame for eternity. I might be angry for a day. The wrath of God will be poured out for eternity.
2. When the Name of Jesus is mocked, every Christian should remember that he once mocked Jesus, too. We were all by nature children of wrath fully deserving the full wrath of God. And yet our God showed us mercy and grace through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. While fully responsible for actions, we were acting in ignorance according to our natures. But when God said, “Let their be light” in our hearts, we saw for the first time the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We then saw our sin for what it was and the beauty of Christ for who He is and we repented and trusted in the finished work of Jesus to save us. So, instead of burning things up when others mock Jesus, we show patience knowing the Savior was patient with us.
3. Which leads us to the work we should do now. Instead of burning things up, we warn and plead with those who mock the Savior to repent of their sin and turn to Christ. If we truly love Christ, we will love making much of Him to sinners knowing He came to save sinners. Because we have been forgiven much, we will want others to know of the beauty of His grace poured out on sinners. We will warn these mockers of the fire of hell which will never die out. The work we do isn’t to defend the honor of His Name but to herald His Name as we seek reconciliation between God and man through the preaching of the gospel.
4. All of this reminds us that Jesus is the living, resurrected Lord. Jesus continues to be at work even today, right now. The Holy Spirit works through us as we make much of Jesus who is risen from the dead. We have a story to tell. Jesus is coming again and will make all things right. We don’t have to defend the honor of a dead man…He’s alive!
I pray that those who feel the need to defend the name and honor of a dead man will see the glory of the true and living Lord who has made a way of escape from the wrath of God through His death and resurrection. Let us pray that their blinded eyes will be opened to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life who is the only way to the true Father of all.
It’s a tricky question, but this chart provides a good rule of thumb.
HT / Rev Kev
Tullian Tchividjian writes...
There’s no doubt, the Why questions of suffering are utterly perplexing. And as we search the Scriptures and consider stories such as Job’s, we are tempted to see those as worst-case scenarios designed to help us get our heads straight in relation to our comparatively small “first world” problems. We look for ways to manage pain. We medicate; we minimize; we moralize. We rage, and we run. We develop theories to explain what is happening to us. While they may temporarily help us categorize and compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings, when true suffering comes, all our speculations fall flat. The Why’s of suffering keep us shrouded in a seemingly bottomless void of abstraction where God is reduced to a finite ethical agent, a limited psychological personality, whose purposes measure on the same scale as ours...
...The good news of suffering is that it brings us to the end of ourselves—a purpose it has certainly served in my life. It brings us to the place of honesty, which is the place of desperation, which is the place of faith, which is the place of freedom. Suffering leaves our idols in pieces on the ground. It puts us in a position to see that God sent His Son not only to suffer in our place but also to suffer with us. Our merciful friend has been through it all. He is with us right now! And while He may not deliver us from pain and loss, He’ll walk with us through it. That is simply Who He is.
Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, writes...
The most serious step that a church can take is to remove one of its members and, in the words of the Apostle Paul, turn such a one "over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is a sobering experience for both the church and for the individual, if he or she has a genuine grasp on the authority of Jesus Christ through His Word and as Lord of His church (Matthew 18:15-20).
Whenever a church takes this final step of removing one of her members, inevitably the question arises among sensitive and thoughtful believers, "How are we to treat those who have been removed?" Sometimes, sentimentalism trumps Scripture in the minds of some church members and the result that injury is done to the souls of those who are being subjected to the God-ordained means of discipline. Church discipline is one of the main ways that Christ pursues His wayward sheep. But if they are not regarded as wayward, or if Christ's own words are disobeyed by believers who have sentimental, unbiblical ideas of love, then spiritual damage inevitably results as the redemptive process of church discipline is undermined.
At the 2006 Ligonier's Conference in Orlando, Florida, Ligon Duncan, R.C. Sproul, Ken Jones and John MacArthur were asked about this during a panel discussion. Their responses are filled with wisdom, humility and grace. I encourage you to take 9 minutes and listen to their insights in the audio clip below.
A special thanks to Chris Larsen and the good folks at Ligonier for permission to post this.
Some good (and timely) thoughts here from Kevin DeYoung...
Many Christians, influenced by Lewis Smedes and a lot of pop psychology, have a therapeutic understanding of forgiveness. They think of forgiveness as a unilateral, internal effort to get our emotions under control. But if we start with a biblical notion of God’s forgiveness, we see that such a view falls short.
The offer of forgiveness is unconditional (for God, and it should be for us), but forgiveness itself is conditioned upon repentance. We must always be open–and even, in God’s grace, become eager–to extend forgiveness, but we (like God) can only forgive the truly penitent. No bitterness either way. No revenge. But forgiveness, and the reconciliation that should follow, is a commitment to those who repent.
Chris Brauns explains:
This book has argued that forgiveness should be defined as a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.
In contrast to this definition, forgiveness would be alternatively defined according to a therapeutic approach. In the therapeutic line of thinking, forgiveness is a private matter that means shutting down anger, bitterness, and resentment. In other words, Christians should always forgive automatically. Because therapeutic forgiveness is based on feelings, it posits that people may even find it necessary to forgive God.
Ultimately, the question for the reader must be this: which definition do you think is more biblical? This is not a theoretical question that can be avoided. Life is relationships. In a fallen world, relationships get damaged and broken. What we believe about forgiveness will determine whether or not we can move forward for God’s glory and our own joy. (Unpacking Forgiveness 72-73).
Overcoming anger and resentment is important, but forgiveness is something more, something different, something that involves two parties instead of one.