This past week I have stirred the waters with some comments and questions on Facebook. I realize that I may be asking for it when I post up a comment or question, but that’s okay with me, I enjoy the discussions and debates. I don’t even mind being called names some times, as long as they leave my family and my mom out of the comments. After thinking through some of the comments this past week, a few thoughts crossed my mind about the three words in the title above.
Preachy – When you and I share our opinions it can be offensive, especially when it comes to our faith and beliefs. The Bible talks about this in Hebrews 4:12 when it says “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ” The word “dividing” brings the idea of a forced separation, picking sides, or not staying in a neutral position. While it may be comfortable in the middle and not rocking the boat sooner or later I believe we must put our oars and paddles in the water and choose a direction to go in. The key to not being preachy is to give someone enough food for thought that they will take a step back and consider what you have said because it was carefully thought out and presented in a nice way. 1 Peter 3:15 commands us as Christians to “do this with gentleness and respect.” Apologist Greg Koukl uses the phrase “to place a stone or pebble in someone’s shoe.” If we are not kind or gentle, or respectful it’s as if we smash someone over the head with a boulder. This will get you nowhere.
Some people don’t understand why Christians share their faith and see it as being pushy or preachy. Christians don’t see it this way because of our beliefs that we are trying to help our fellow-man see the world through the lens of our worldview and that there is only one true worldview. Let me use an illustration to help you understand. As a parent, I teach my kids about the dangers in the world. To not talk to strangers, to watch out for creepers and child predators because I love them and don’t want them to fall prey to those kinds of people. In the same way, Christians believe that there is a literal Hell and that we want to do our best to help other people avoid that any way possible. Mind you that we should respect others beliefs and not force anything on anyone, but it still is a responsibility to help others understand the Bible, the teachings of Christ, and what it takes to receive the gift of eternal life.
Judgmental – Judging is one of those “hot-button” words that brings up a lot of negative thoughts. Many people including Christians have often quoted Matthew 7:1 that says “Do not judge” or the King James version reads “Judge not.” If we continue to read after the first three words we see that the Bible is not saying that we cannot judge, it tells us that we will be judged with the same measure that we judge others by and in verse 5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ” The judgment that takes place is to help someone else, not to kick them why they are down. We must check our attitudes and motives when we speak of someone else. Is it to build ourselves up or make ourselves look good? One of the realities to being an associate pastor is that the scriptures preached/taught are not always popular or easy to swallow for everyone, including myself. BUT, if I am to preach the whole Bible, I can’t take scissors and cut out the parts that I don’t like. I must make judgments on things from time to time in relation to God’s word. What things should I post and not post on Facebook/Twitter, How should I be responsible with my possessions, Who should I vote for, Why should I buy or not buy this CD? Perhaps the key here is given advice when asked and not pushing it on someone who didn’t ask for it.
Intolerant – The last word, intolerant is another popular word used by people when their viewpoints are challenged. It is a label that almost reaches the level of the word racism in our American culture. Have you ever considered intolerant as a good word? It can be. Mother Teresa was intolerant of poverty and hunger. The United States was intolerant of the Genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazis in WWII. Some others are intolerant of the mistreatment of animals or child abuse. Being intolerant just means that you can’t stand for something or that you will not accept it. Jesus was most intolerant of the religious leaders of His day and held little contempt for them and their actions that led the people away from the truth of God’s word. Being tolerant doesn’t mean that you have to agree with someone elses viewpoint or opinion. It just means that you respectful recognize to their own right to a different belief or opinion. It also doesn’t mean that they are right, or that you both are right about something.
As Christians we must realize and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in talking with others. How should we approach them? Should we build a relationship with them first to earn the right to speak into someones life? How far should we “push” a topic? We need to know when we need to stop and walk away for a bit. Remember even Jesus was not accepted by all and in His own home town he instructed His followers to “wipe the dust off” their feet if they were not accepted. (Luke 10:10-12) This is something that is learned the more you interact with people and the better you know who you are talking with. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 it says that “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” and ” but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” We see that some will not receive it well, some will look at the cross as foolish or a stumbling block.
Great post, John. I think these three words come up so often because we have focused so much on “speaking the truth” but have forgotten the “in love” part.
C.S. Lewis said it correctly when he said that arguments never brought anyone into the Kingdom. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared to discuss our faith, or passionately defend it when necessary, but it does mean that we should never approach sharing the Gospel as a winner take all contest.
Thanks for the thoughts!