In my early twenties I was often asked to give my opinion on a variety of topics. Most of the time I, humbly submit, I had no idea what I was even talking about. From my teens till the present I’ve been a leader both in the church and outside the Church which has afforded me the opportunity to be asked many times about controversial topics and to offer my opinion and thoughts on them. It has also afforded me the opportunity to think through how to respond to those issues and perhaps equally important, how not to respond.
When I graduated high school, I got a letter from my dad that stated it was his prayer that I would be slow to speak and quick to listen. I took that advice to heart because not only is it sage advice, it is also biblical. That advice from my dad and the truth of God’s Word has often constrained me from speaking on a variety of issues, not because I don’t have thoughts on them, but rather because my thoughts would not be helpful or edifying regarding a variety of issues that arise.
Recent years have seen an explosion of controversy in the Church. It seems every time I go on social media or look at blogs there is some firestorm that rages. Meanwhile, I keep my head down and keep writing and working away. Many people gain notoriety because they make clear stands for certain issues. In the past, I would have likely been one of those people. I was outspoken, opinionated, stubborn, and knowledgeable about a lot of issues. As I’ve matured I’ve learned that it is the better course of valor to shut my mouth, remain silent, put my sin to death, and keep quiet. That isn’t to say I still don’t have thoughts on a variety of issues, but what it does mean is I’ve hopefully matured and gained a degree of wisdom by the grace of God.
What I see in the “blogosphere” today both concerns and saddens me. I get many people who ask what I think about this or that situation and how they should handle it. I typically tell them to read and obey what God says in the Bible. Rather than being fascinated with the latest controversy, a better approach is submitting to your pastor, becoming a member and getting involved in a local church, finding a hobby, hanging out with your family or reading a good godly book. There are a plethora of other things to do besides engaging in the constant cycle of controversy. With that said, a balance must be struck as there are important issues worthy of taking a stand for or against.
Recent years have seen attacks on Adam being a real person who lived in real history, along with renewed attacks on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, hell as a place of unending and unrelenting conscious punishment, the evils of abortion and a host of other issues that touch at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. While many issues and controversies in the church do not touch on these issues, the one’s I just described should be focused on by Christians and written about on blogs, articles, magazines, and in all forms of media. In other words, when biblical truth is on the line, Christians must stand up for and defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, a task known as apologetics. Christians must know what they believe and why they believe it in order to properly engage these controversial type issues. If we have not read our Bibles and have not studied church history to learn how men and women from the early church to the present day have engaged in controversy, how will we be knowledgeable enough to handle such situations in a godly way and grow in the grace of God?
Controversy has provided the church moments of great clarity about what it believes and why it matters. One can think of the Council of Nicaea as an excellent example or the stand Athanasius took or the many, many saints who have offered up their lives as an offering to the Lord Jesus as martyrs. You don’t have to go very far in church history to learn that those saints were made of sturdier stuff than most believers today. They died for the faith and yet today, we want to argue and fight about everything. Every day it seems there is some new issue in the blogosphere that cries out for attention. People decry one another’s faults and foibles all the while proclaiming that they believe in the God of all grace and in the commands to “one another” each other as outlined in the New Testament. Furthermore, we wonder why many non-Christians scoff at Christians today and call us hypocrites? It is any surprise why they describe us that way when we can’t even take seriously what we believe or live according to what we say we believe? Yes there are some issues worth fighting for and worth speaking up clearly and loudly about. Then again, there are those issues that might as well just die and go away along with the voices perpetuating the fervor.
My opinion on a variety of matters doesn’t matter. What matters to me is God’s Word, the Gospel and building up of the body of Christ. Those are three things I’ve given my life to studying, writing, and speaking about and will till the day I die. I may not be “Mr. Popular” because I do that, but popularity is not the goal of the Christian life, faithfulness is. Everyone has foibles and sins. Rather than seeing a person’s picture on a screen and seeing them as your enemy, instead see them the way God does, namely through the lens of His grace. Whenever I want to rail against the latest controversy, I first ask myself, “Is this an issue that directly attacks and threatens biblical Christianity?” Secondly, I ask myself, “What is my motivation for speaking to this issue?” Finally, I ask myself, “Will what I say be helpful and edifying to others or will it tear down others?”
Most of the time as I think through those questions the answer is no to those answers which means I don’t write or speak about those issues. Again, not every issue is worth speaking about. Many blogs and other voices may say what I think about a certain topic. Yet if I don’t have anything edifying to say or if it isn’t an issue that directly threatens biblical Christianity and my motivation is all wrong for speaking to the issue, then I simply won’t speak. As my dad told me and as the Bible says it is best to be slow to speak and quick to listen.
The next time you think you need to write a blog post or speak about an issue stop first and think about it. Do you really need to speak to that particular issue or does your flesh want to speak out about it? Most of the time if we are honest, our desire is to be recognized as someone who pointed out the latest flaw in another person. Rather than operating in the flesh, Christians are called to manifest the fruits of the Spirit because they have been redeemed by Jesus. Rather than engaging in controversy, Christians are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation. Yes, sometimes Christians must stand up and speak out about issues so don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think we need to speak to every issue all the time as many are doing.
The Gospel calls God’s people to be a particular people who love Jesus and know and serve Him. If even Jesus didn’t speak to every issue but rather addressed the big issues of life and our greatest need is to know and serve Him, then I don’t think He will be upset if we don’t participate in the rancor about every issue. Part of Christian maturity is knowing when to speak and how to speak. The Bible speaks loudly to both issues. Christians are to speak truth in a world that rejects truth. Christians are to tame their tongues and speak the truth seasoned with grace. If Christians took more seriously what the New Testament said about how we are to speak, I think we would see less controversies and more genuine dialogue and discussion with one another about important matters that we can all agree on such as marriage, abortion, reaching the youth just to name a few.
While I doubt I’ll stop getting asked about my opinion about the latest controversy, I pray we can learn to speak to one another as the people of God because of the great work Jesus has accomplished for His people. I long for the day when Jesus will return at His second coming, speak His Word and slay all His enemies. Until that day, I pray that we as His people can speak the truth in love to one another and have serious conversation and dialogue all with a view to grow in understanding God’s Word and in the Gospel. Rather than all the fighting, what we need is to pause, take a deep breathe, deflate our egos by laying them at the foot of the Cross, take up the Cross, and follow Jesus. Then and only then will we be slow to speak and quick to listen because only then have we truly put to death our sinful desires.
Jesus is the great sin killer who empowers God’s people through the Holy Spirit to know and serve the Lord. It is for this reason I don’t need to speak about the latest controversy. Rather than speaking, I need to be silent, I need to be still before God, I need to put my sin to death so I can love my brother and sister in Christ and show him or her the love of Jesus Christ. That is my goal, and I pray it is yours, to be killing sin rather than coddling it and growing in knowledge of God and of His grace for the purpose of the strengthening of His church and advancing His gospel. Those are issues worth talking about, worth defending, and even worth dying for.