The Big Picture
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
The complicated issues of our time can often be characterized as “matters of life and death.” The terminology we employ suggests we are in a crisis, and we must act – or all will be lost.
Whenever people feel they’re in a crisis they tend to overreact. Even if their assessment of an issue is accurate, their reaction tends to become a pendulum swing too far in the other direction, which then creates another rebellion.
The Bible teaches the value of moderation. James wrote,
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)
James conveyed the inspired wisdom found in the book of Proverbs (14:29; 15:18; 16:32).
In the Apostle Paul’s letter, we see a similar appeal:
Correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2b)
And to the Galatians he wrote:
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. (Galatians 6:1a)
Paul calls for a sense of moderation; correcting sin not in a self-righteous manner or to “smack down” those who err. Rather, in a spirit of gentleness, the preeminent concern is the relationship the erring person has with God.
A friend of mine once said, “The trouble with you conservatives is that you are not content to be right. You want to punish others for being wrong.” It made for a lively mealtime discussion, and it revealed the sad reality that sometimes we may overreact. Sometimes we might be inclined to correct sin by invoking our own version of hellfire and brimstone.
A Bigger Picture
Jesus once said,
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36–37)
The Scriptures have been clear about the temporality of life in this world. The psalmist wrote:
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:15–16)
During his ministry Jesus said:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19–20)
David Landow, a Presbyterian minister, said, “Christianity is about longing for the kingdom to come. We’ve made it too much about what we long for now.” Consider this point in the way we debate the hot issues of our time. Both sides often equally practice the cancel culture. We act as if this life is all there is. We carry on like we must win every argument, win every election, and set ourselves up as the oracles of hope in a hopeless world.
At stake in every battle or debate is a soul, created by God and redeemed by Christ. No matter how distressing an issue may be, it always resides within the larger context of eternity, both for those who advocate error and for those of us who object to it.
The “Great Commission” directs us to demonstrate our concern for the eternity of souls by leading people to know God through Jesus Christ. Sometimes our obedience is a very public testimonial of words. Most often, however, it is a testimonial of action. Peter writes:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
No one will ask us about the hope that we have when we appear no more hopeful than others of the world. There is something about the way we act, the values we practice, and the sacrifices we make for others that compels people to say something to us. Certainly, some may question our sanity, but others will want to know why we are as we do.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:12)
How peculiar we look when we practice an unfamiliar love in a world of sin. When we sacrifice without reward, when we give without getting, and when we persevere with an enduring commitment towards others, even when we aren’t liked by others, we still stand out. And when we stand out, people will want to know how we do it and why we do it. In that way, the door opens to talk about the hope that we have – the Savior of our soul.
Not “Soft” on Sin or Activism
In no way am I suggesting we go “soft” on sin or activism. The consequences of sin are crystal clear:
The one who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:20)
For the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
Going “soft” on sin puts souls in peril. “Minding our own business” may sound socially prudent, but it denies the reality that we are our brother’s or sister’s keeper.
We are all called to activism:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8–9)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:3–5)
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27–31)
Some might wish to neglect the needs of the temporal because they are headed for eternity. Yet, it is our concern for lives and souls that compels us to speak up and to act. All correction and all activism are to be done within the context of the eternal reality through Christ.
Consider for a moment the early New Testament church:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1–4)
The disciples sound callous in our hypersensitive culture. How could anyone step back and say, “It is not my issue”? But that is not what they said. They said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” More generally stated, it would not be right for anyone to correct a social wrong and neglect the ministry to souls.
Abortion is a heinous sin. It destroys the most defenseless of human life. Yet as heinous as it may be, it should be addressed within the context of the cross and our commission to proclaim Christ. While it may be personally satisfying to slam those who favor abortion, and to treat them as they treat us, remember that they are the mission field. They are the ones who, for whatever reason in their upbringing or faulty logic, do not know the truth about life and salvation. And you do know the truth.
Measure your words and actions carefully. Get involved and be a force of good. In the process, build a bridge and not a wall between those who need the truth, and you as the keeper of the truth. We are told:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14–16)
April 15, 2018
May 3, 2018