First, just a few things I want to mention.
I do want to apologize for the lack of blogging on my part. "Writer's block" has hit me like a ton of bricks, in the past several weeks and I've been feeling particularly uninspired.
Also, I recently peeked into the spam comment file on our blogger dashboard, and saw several non-spam comments that had found their way in there. So, if you're wondering why your comment never showed up, that's why. Sorry about that! From now on, I'll try to remember to check that file, periodically, and release the comments that aren't spam.
And, third and finally, I've wiffle-waffled a great deal over the blog post below, and finally decided to publish it here even though what I've written hasn't really fully captured what's in my mind and heart. I know the readers that we have are gracious and will take what I have to say with a grain of salt. If there's anything helpful there, I'm glad. If not, feel free to lambast me as much as you want. But, your comment might end up in the spam file! Just kidding.
"Speak the truth in love."
It’s a handy phrase – not too explicit but with a certain punch. And, "truth" and "love" are too very good things, right? Of course, right. So, we type the phrase glibly at the end of blog posts, and internet arguments, and that clinches everything.
"I’m sorry that you disagree with me, but I’m kind of glad, too, because I love a good argument, I mean, debate. And, I love you, but you’re wrong and I’m right. But just mostly, I’m right."
There’s a lot of defenders of the faith, these days, battling the sins of the world from their computer desks and shooting out pithy blog posts with their extremely "right" fingertips. They’re no doubt godly people – men and women who know their doctrine and are fighting back against the ludicrousness and sin of this world with all they’ve got. But, mostly, they just want to be right. We all want that. I know I do. I want people to know what I think, because I think what I have to say is pretty doggone important and everyone better listen up and if someone tries to argue well, so much the better. My mouth starts to water and I am aching while still halfway through their (no doubt badly spelled) comment to start refuting their argument point for point. I will parry with a few Bible verses, perhaps throw a few punches with quotes from famous theologians, and finish with a prayer that they would see the light. But, inwardly, I’m praying that they would be ENTIRELY OBLITERATED - that, figuratively, I could plant myself on their expiring bodies, waving my sword in the air and be glorified.
Ooops, I mean that God would be glorified, of course.
I wince at this description, because I know that my heart isn’t calling out for God to be glorified or for his truth to go forward or that people might truly have their hearts softened. I’m really more interested in being right. And, I’m not just talking about the Internet. It happens all the time in "real" relationships, too.
Because sometimes we get so caught up in the Biblical answer that we forget about the Biblical response.
It’s handy to remember that Paul called some people "dogs." But, we like to forget that he also was "all things to all people" and even had those "mutilators of the flesh" have at Timothy so that his uncircumcision wouldn’t be a problem to the Jews he was trying to reach.
We like to recall the thrilling event in which Jesus cleared the temple with a whip, but conveniently forget that he said not a word to prevent his being beaten and slain.
It’s very easy to type up a vehemently worded, sound rebuke to all those who oppose you or the truth you speak. It’s another thing to shut up. Because, honestly, has there ever been an Internet argument that ended with your opponent saying, "Wow! I had never thought of it that way. Please forgive me for my rude and ignorant comments. Can I be your new best friend?"
If this has ever happened, please tell me. I would be interested to hear the story.
But, for the most part, I’d wager that more people are won for Christ not by your clever words but by some good old-fashioned listening and care. Actually, I’m willing to bet that 100% of conversions have nothing whatever to do with human effort and everything to do with God’s grace.
Perhaps it’s time to realize it’s not about me, my reputation, my idea of right, or my feelings being hurt, and everything to do with God’s grace. We’ve received it; maybe it’s time to dispense it.
Oh, and that Philippians 4:8 verse - the one that’s so good for denouncing your idea of immoral entertainment? It played with my mind when my Dad suggested that this verse had less to do with pointing fingers and more to do with unity in the church. In other words, if you can find anything true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise in the people around you, then focus on these things and ignore the aspects of them that annoy, anger, and hurt you.
"Let your reasonableness (or gentleness) be known to everyone." Darn it! Aren’t we supposed to be warriors for Christ? Where’s the battle in being gentle? Try it for a little while. Struggling to respond gently when people are being pains in the body part turns out to be quite a struggle, indeed.
And, here’s something that shook my world, when I learned it: "It’s not about me. At all. My feelings, my idea of right and wrong, my opinions, and even my good name do not matter." Are our arguments more about clarifying our points just one more time, or showing the gentle, long-term love that God shows us? Are we really defending God’s truth, or defending our own dignity? God’s truth really will abide and his honour will remain intact even without our valiant efforts in his defense.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t defend what the Bible says is true and good in a crooked and depraved generation? Of course not. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to disagree, or debate, or to leave long comments on Facebook statuses. I am saying that it’s okay, and maybe the right thing to backspace the angry retort you’ve started to type, to choke back the irritated remark and maybe it’s not okay for me to daydream about the day when I will dramatically renounce all my enemies for the worms that they are and they will fall at my feet in submission.
Oops, I mean at God’s feet. Because I’m really doing all this for him, right?
And, yes, I do get the irony of me writing a blog post about this. But, I promise if anyone argues with me in the comment section, I won’t argue back.