I noted earlier this week that evangelicals (at least those represented in the blogosphere) tend toward picking the wrong heros and fighting the wrong battles. I will expand a little bit more on the 2nd point here.
What battles should we be fighting as believers in Christ? In my humble opinion, evangelical Christianity is a mess because we don’t let Scripture set the priority level for the swords upon which we will die. Scripture says some pretty profound things about what is important. Here are a few verses that strike me as particularly powerful and succinct.
John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Matthew 22 36″Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1 Pet 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Colossians 3:12-13 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
I am coming to value a new and different fight–one I don’t see getting high visibility in the world of the Christian blogger looking for the current controversy of the day. It’s the fight for Biblical love and forgiveness as God defines it in His word (with humility and grace as close allies). After all, without love as God defines it, even speaking with gifted words or giving my body to be burned for the poor is meaningless (I Cor. 13:1-2). Furthermore, it’s the greatest command according to Jesus. That gives it a priority few other things in Scripture have.
We must fight for the accurate use of the term love in our homes, churches, and even the Christian blogosphere. We must not tolerate when people throw the term about but deny it by violating the objective definition Scripture gives us in I Cor. 13. We must fight for real humility and grace, not sham niceties that are no more than politeness or diplomacy to get ourselves out of a sticky situation.
Most disturbing to me is that we sometimes fight for a nuance of the gospel while tolerating the practical things that Scripture says indicate we don’t get the gospel at all. Scripture teaches that when we don’t get grace, love, humility, and forgiveness, it reflects that we don’t really understand the gospel. That should set off red flags for us all personally.
I recently followed a thread on language at a widely read Christian blog. Paul’s words to the Ephesians about language in Ephesians 4 was quoted. There, Paul speaks of language that ministers grace to the hearers–that isn’t bitter, angry, slanderous, malicious–but is kind and tenderhearted reflecting to others God’s forgiveness of us. However, the main issue on this thread was the s-word and potty humor. Now, I don’t use the s-word in personal conversation and other than the occasional inevitable potty humor that arises in a house with a 2 and 3 year old, I don’t partake in that much either. But I’m profoundly disturbed that so many seemingly mature Christians would boil down the issue to those points.
My soul-deep burden, weighing on my heart, is that many in the Body of Christ, including Christian leaders heralded in the blogosphere, don’t understand that our malicious, sarcastic, angry speech (not our use of the s-word or potty humor) reflects a heart that doesn’t understand the gospel. Such a heart doesn’t fully grasp God’s grace to us, and therefore it is incapable of extending that grace to others.
My prayer today is that we would fight this battle first. If we first get the gospel to ourselves and then humbly and lovingly minister that grace to the next person, I think we would be amazed at the purity of the doctrine that would rise up in our church.
My own confession is that I have a bad attitude against those who have a bad attitude. I don’t easily extend grace to those who aren’t gracious. And forgiving those who are not particularly forgiving is still more of a goal than a reality for me. God, help me first to understand Your grace TO ME so that I could extend it to others. Second, help me to see that when I am kind to those who are easy to love, it has little to do with grace and the gospel. Help me love those who don’t love in return, aren’t gracious, and seem unable to forgive. Equip me to minister grace to them, for they are the most in need of understanding it.