"The Rage Mob..." have you heard that expression? Someone always seems bent out of shape about something. That is why you have news stories of someone shooting a fast-food worker because their fries were cold. The church must never be a rage mob. Don't get me wrong--moral outrage is needful sometimes, but if we are seething on the inside most of the time, we will eventually find something or someone to ignite the rage explosion.
Our culture is so polarized today--over virtually everything. We seem incapable of disagreeing about a position without being disagreeable with people. The actual harm comes to our Christian testimony when we walk around with a scowl and speak with venom. But wait, wouldn't that be more akin to being the spawn of the serpent rather than a child of God?
Not only is this a danger to the church and our mission to share the Gospel, but in our nation a real threat that the very fabric of society will unravel. The ideal of "one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" seems abandoned. All those components are essential. We have witnessed extremism and violence from left and right, and the threat of authoritarianism is growing ominously. To continue down our current path does not end well. It has been tried before. A civil war is terribly uncivil.
We should remember that sinners are not powerful foes to fight but potential friends to find. They are held captive by the enemy, Satan, to do his bidding. Paul reminds us our warfare is spiritual--that our fight is not with flesh and blood (rf. Eph.6:10-20). If we would speak with respectfulness to those created in God's image, then we might be able to lead them to faith in Christ and see that image, marred by sin, regenerated fully in salvation. We come to the battlefield of ideas and seek to win in the arena of thought, armed with truth, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not [a]carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ..." (2 Cor.10:3-5). Of course, a supernatural work of the Spirit must occur for blind eyes to be open, but God can use us--indwelt by His Spirit--in that miracle.
Scripture enjoins, "speak the truth in love" (Eph.4:15a). To sacrifice truth is not loving, but to sacrifice love in the name of standing for truth is not true to the Gospel. It is not a question of "either/or" but "both/and." We should pray for doctrinal fidelity and brotherly harmony in our churches. Jesus prayed in John 17 for His church to have truth and unity. Let us seek to be an answer to that prayer. As we try to reach our world with the good news of Jesus in these bad news times, may the world look at us and say, as was reported by Tertullian in early church history, "Behold, how they love one another."
Yours for Truth and Love,
Dennis Thurman, AMS