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I’m against it

February 13, 2013

If you hang around non-Christians for any amount of time you will hear the message over and over.  We Christians are, it seems, more known by what we are against than what we are for.  You know the drill…we are against same sex marriage, against a woman’s right to choose, against, against, against.  The refrain has become so common that even Christians repeat it, warning other Christians not to be so negative.  I’ve done it myself.

And, in truth, the charge is accurate.  There are a lot of things out there that Christians are against.  So, in this post-modern era of the culture war, we will hear this charge repeated over and over, and it will come with a warning.  Here is one quote I read recently:

“You will be known more by what you witness against than by what you witness for, and practically this will prove that you witness against all but yourselves.”

Wow!  That about sums up the fear we evangelicals should have as we live in these culture war times, doesn’t it?  The only problem is that the quote was given on March 10th, 1836.  It appears we’ve had this problem for a long time.  Why do you suppose that is?

One possible reason is that Christians have always been against certain things they have considered harmful or contrary to the Gospel.  This leads me to two conclusions.

  1. It is right and proper for Christians to be against things we believe to be wrong.
  2. Non-Christians too can be against things they believe to be wrong, even if it differs from us.

Everybody is against something and, surprisingly, there is more agreement on what we oppose than we think.  Do you know anyone who is in favor of child abuse?  We don’t want to let the frequent “us vs. them” battles to hide the commonalities.

So how do we express differences?  Step one to a concrete philosophy of how to express our opinions is to remember that it is OK to be against things.  Beyond that I am convinced that some principles can give us clarity on what to do when we oppose an idea or development.  Here are a few of my ideas.

–          We should choose the battleground wisely.  The list of things that evangelicals could be against is almost endless.  Yet if you ask people what we are against you will almost always get down to the same two or three issues.  It gives the appearance that we feel some sins are worse than others.  We don’t all need to pile on the same issues.  Find the place where you can make a unique difference.

–          We should celebrate what is right more than criticize what is wrong.  Let’s say you want to oppose abortion.  Isn’t it better to share stories of how women who have refused that option later thanked God that they did so?  Promoting the right is more compelling than denouncing the wrong.

–          We should find common ground with folks we frequently oppose.  Evangelicals and feminists are frequently at odds.  It is true however that we are equally strong in the belief that pornography and domestic violence are destructive.  If we form alliances for good it can make later differences seem less antagonistic.

–          We should be more personal in our expressions.  For example, I am not a big supporter of petitions.  Signing a petition strikes me as a way to feel good about taking a stand while actually making the minimum effort.  In the same way I think ten evangelicals working privately and quietly to speak to an issue they deem wrong is worth a thousand showing up at a rally.

–          We should understand that “the other side” consists of real people, with real reasons that they feel the way they do.  We should not demonize them or portray their concerns as foolish or evil.  If we want to oppose something we have to honestly address the arguments of the other side.  This is not a call for good apologetics; it is a call for careful and compassionate listening before we speak.

–          We should always express our intentions with grace.  This one is tricky but it is not enough just to say we are speaking the truth in love, we need to go the extra mile to make sure they feel our love.  A good example is the raging internet debate currently going on over virginity and purity.  Some women have spoken out about how they were made to feel like “damaged goods” or “second class Christians” because they did not wait until marriage.  I doubt any serious purity proponent really wanted to convey that message but they ended up doing so.

–          We should expect that some people will always misunderstand us.  We need to count the cost.  No matter how gracious we are, or think we are, speaking to a controversial topic can offend.  We don’t want it; we should try to avoid it; we should apologize for hurting others; but we can’t assume we will always be understood.  Neither can we blame others when we are not.

–          We should acknowledge the logs in our own eyes.  I have a Christian friend who, by virtual of his called ministry, frequently finds himself in opposition to others.  I’ve listened to him many times.  He always expresses his views carefully, slowly, and with as much grace as he can.  He has a habit of shrugging at the end of his comment and saying “Of course, I could be wrong.”

These are by no means rules or instructions.  They are simply principles that help me.  What principles do you follow?

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From → Christianity

2 Comments
  1. Many times the culture catches believers off guard. We get settled into a certain way of thing, perhaps by being isolated from the rest of the world. Here’s a piece of advice that may help some: Don’t be surprised when non-believers act like non-believers. It shouldn’t be surprising to find large groups of the population that do not know Christ to be found acting un-Christlike. Just because you grew up in Sunday school, and showed up at church every time the doors are open, doesn’t mean every did. We know these things, if we think about them for a moment, but then get shocked when we see the people in the world acting like, well, the world.

    The culture war is the result of Christians creating their own sub-culture of American society. We don’t just read the Bible and sing hymns, we have our own publishing companies, our own record companies, Christian book stores, t-shirts, summer camps, t.v. networks, etc. It’s a wonder there is not a Christian restaurant chain; I can imagine every table bowing their heads each time another family sits down and turns thanks. Then when we accidentally bump into someone that not like us there is culture shock.

    I question the value of the culture war entirely. Even if every person posted the 10 commandments on the wall and (tried to) follow them, they would be bound for hell without hearing the Gospel. We need to be seen by the world as living for Christ, and we must be known for sharing the Gospel and not for condemnation.

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