“Us” Versus “Them” | JT 26.3
Posted by Abdu Murray, on May 25, 2018
Topic: Just Thinking Magazine
There’s an Arabic saying that often makes me smile: “Kulna fil hawa sawa.” It literally means “We’re all in the same air,” roughly conveying the same idea as the English saying, “We’re all in the same boat.” But Arabic sayings tend to have zestier connotations than their Western counterparts. “Kulna fil hawa sawa” really conveys the message, “We’re all in the same stink,” particularly the stink of the human condition. It’s a pungent reminder that all of us—yes, all of us including Christians—have contributed to the Culture of Confusion’s stench.
In mid-2015, my news and social media feeds were abuzz with urgent-seeming headlines bemoaning, “It’s Already Starting!” and “That Didn’t Take Long!” The articles insinuated that an LGBT activist leveraged the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage to file a federal lawsuit to outlaw the Bible as hate speech.
Just three minutes of investigation revealed this narrative was bogus—and obviously so. Yes, a gay man filed a lawsuit in a Michigan federal court1 against two Christian publishers. But he did not seek to have the Bible “banned.” He sought money for emotional distress, claiming the publishers had mistranslated the Bible to be unfavorable to homosexuals. And he didn’t file his lawsuit after the Obergefell decision. He filed it in 2008—seven years before the Supreme Court’s ruling. Not only that, but the lawsuit was dismissed almost as soon as it was filed. The judge, a principled jurist I had the privilege of appearing before as an attorney, dismissed the case because it had no basis in the law and was “largely incomprehensible.”
In less time than a TV commercial break, I learned that this alarmist story was false. And yet so many people were quick to believe an obviously untrue story and propel it to viral status. The irony saddened me because some of those who perpetuated the falsehood professed to follow Jesus, who claimed to be the very embodiment of truth (John 14:6). Whether the story was propagated by those who knew it was false or by those who were duped into believing it was true, the fact remains that Christians should have behaved differently. A common phrase in Christian circles is that the church is supposed to be “in but not of” the broader culture. In other words, Christians are to engage with the culture but not be unduly influenced by it. But so pervasive and seductive is the post-truth mindset that the church, at least to some degree, has become in and of the Culture of Confusion.
Part of this behavior is a reaction to society’s growing perception of Christians as enemies of progress and freedom. Some Christians believe that battle lines have been drawn, which is why they get seduced into believing and spreading false stories about people they see to be the enemy. That’s what makes the seductions of a post-truth Culture of Confusion all the more insidious. It plays on partial truths to goad us into believing and spreading untruths.
This is doubly sad because when the church has doubled down on its commitment to truth, especially in the face of opposition, it has flourished, brought credibility to the gospel, and benefited society. For Christians, now is not the time to be seduced into making “them” look as bad as possible while making “us” look as sympathetic as possible. Now is the time for compassionate, yet uncompromisingly expressed, truth. If the church’s caving to the post-truth mindset has contributed to the larger cultural problem, then perhaps Christians’ rediscovered commitment to the truth can lead us back to the solution.
Fixing What Bugs Us
Not long ago I spoke at a major university in Canada on the topic “Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable.” A member of the audience took to the microphone to pose an interesting question. “I’m a software engineer,” he began. “Once we’ve designed the software, we test it for things that bug us about it. Not just glitches, but things about the software we personally don’t like. If you were to do the same test on the church, what would bug you about it?”
The audience nervously laughed at the hot-seat question. How would I, as someone who’s spoken at many churches around the world, respond? While I think the church is doing great things locally and across the world, there are things that could use changing.2 But first we have to understand what we’re hoping to debug when we reference “the church.” Consider the fact that many people today, still the vast majority in the United States, call themselves Christians. But donning a label doesn’t equate to being the genuine article. Peering behind the veils, we see that only three out of ten Americans are practicing Christians, meaning that Christian living, Bible reading, and regular church attendance are important to their lives.3 And given that America is still more religious than most European countries, Australia, or Canada, it’s safe to say that an even smaller percentage of people in Western countries are practicing Christians. “Legacy Christians,” as Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons call them, are those for whom Christianity is “background noise that can safely be ignored.”4 While “three out of four U.S. adults have some Christian background . . . about three in five American Christians are largely inactive in their faith.”5 Given these numbers, the sensationalistic or false stories purveyed in the trending social media posts come largely—but not solely—from people for whom being Christian is little more than a moniker that distinguishes them from politically left-leaning people.
Who I want to address here are practicing Christians— men and women for whom Christianity is a way of life, regular church attendance is their practice, and devotion to Jesus is their ultimate aim. When I refer to the church going forward, that is who I mean. Although practicing Christians are less influenced by the Culture of Confusion, the influence is significant enough that we have to address it. So to root out the bugs, we have to start there.
Seduction in Two-Part Harmony
The church has succumbed to post-truth’s expression in two seemingly contrary ways. On one hand, Christians have compromised the clarity of Scripture for the sake of acceptance and to avoid conflict. On the other hand, Christians have indulged the cultural practice of vilifying those with whom they disagree. These two seductions seem contradictory, but when they work together, they harmonize in a grisly dirge.
Let’s address the first post-truth seduction: making the gospel pill easier to swallow to avoid uncomfortable discussions with non-Christians and difficult Bible passages that challenge our behavioral preferences. In our effort to be liked, Jesus’ famous statement, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” is often misquoted. Many, including those in the church, interpret this passage to mean that Jesus shunned moral judgment. And, so the argument goes, Christians have no place judging the actions of others in the broader culture. It’s quite telling that so few people quote the entire context of Jesus’ words. The full passage reads:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1–5)
It’s worth pausing for a moment to see just how Jesus’ words actually express a message opposite to what so many want him to have expressed. Jesus says that when we remove the log from our own eye, we will see clearly how to judge our brother’s actions. Applied today, if the church gets the post-truth speck out of its own eye, it can bring clarity to a world of confusion. In the full context, we see that Jesus is saying that when we judge, it is to be for the improvement of others, not their condemnation.
So why do so many people, including Christians, misapply Jesus’ statements as a blanket prohibition against all judgment? There are as many reasons as there are people who do so. One common reason is that Christians want to appear tolerant and likable, especially in a time when tolerance—though woefully misdefined—is a chief virtue. Put plainly, many Christians have bought into what Kinnaman and Lyons call “the new moral code” that people should not criticize someone else’s life choices. Can we see the seduction playing out right before our eyes? The post-truth Culture of Confusion elevates preferences and feelings over facts and truth. And by elevating our preferences to be liked and feel accepted, Christians have misapplied the plain truth of Jesus’ words and exchanged them for pleasant cultural comforts. This brings to mind Dallas Willard’s apt assessment of the spiritual landscape, in which “most of what Americans do in their religion now is done at the behest of feelings. . . . The quest for pleasure takes over the house of God.”6 Willard’s indictment is true for some of us all of the time. And it is true for all of us at least some of the time.
The second seduction—that of using the truths of Scripture to bludgeon outsiders—brings a pendular swing of overcorrecting our desire to be liked. Too often, Christians conveniently forget the fact that like everyone else, they need a Savior. When Christians forget that, they create an “us versus them” paradigm leading to Christians hungrily gobbling up and passing along iffy articles about how awful “they” are without a moment’s pause. Worse yet, Christians may make churches so unwelcoming that they repel the very people who could benefit from what Jesus has to offer. Truth is once again sacrificed, but this time at the altar of a self-righteous higher agenda to stand up to “them.” Fair or not, people judge the credibility of a message by the integrity of the messenger. If the gospel message of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation is proclaimed by those who seem to have none of those qualities, it’s hard to see how the broader culture’s response can be anything but concomitant dismay and anger.
Dancing to a Different Tune
The way forward tempers both our need to be liked and the importance of addressing detrimental ideas and behaviors. A story in Marie Chapian’s book Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy comes to mind. She recounts the story of Jakob, a missionary to the former Yugoslavia, who encounters Cimmerman, a farmer who had lost much to the country’s rampant violence and corruption. When Jakob tried to share the gospel message with him, Cimmerman would have none of it. Angered by the clergy’s complicity in the ugliness, Cimmerman refused to hear Jakob out. “Those men of the cloth tortured and killed my own nephew before my eyes,” he spewed. “I saw him die in his own blood, and then I watched the killers calmly genuflect before the main altar of the church, cross themselves with holy water, and a few moments later their forks scraped their plates as they ate their supper in the parish house.”7 Obviously, Cimmerman’s reaction had nothing to do with the gospel message’s truth or falsity. Church corruption does not change the facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But the point is this: Cimmerman dismissed the message (indeed, he dismissed Christ himself) based on his experiences with those who claimed to believe the message.
Today’s Cimmermans distrust Christians as ultraconservative, hypocritical judging exclusivists. That is, of course, a sweeping and unfair characterization. Nevertheless, that perception persists and even grows. The broader culture hears Christians lament the erosion of marriage while believing that Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. (They do not, but that is a common misperception.)8 Non-Christians see Christians supporting conservative political leaders regardless of their sometimes serious moral failings, yet condemning liberal leaders for those same failings. While I think this mischaracterizes most genuine Christians, there are those louder-than-normal voices within the church who judge with unmitigated bias and give full vent to their anger at outsiders, “those people,” without reflecting on their own sin.
The church can recapture its positive cultural influence if it rekindles its passion for the principles that revolutionized the world so long ago. In sharp contrast to our current adversarial attitudes, Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Christians are to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14). But if the church sees everyone as enemies to be vanquished, it will lose its savor and its brightness. What we need is neither complacency nor indignation. What we need is wisdom.
A Wise Temperament: Cooling the Smoldering Anger
The book of Proverbs provides a template for how Christians can once again be as savory as salt and illuminating as light in a bitter and dark time. If there is a word other than confused to describe the current cultural mood, it has to be angry. From protests that flare up at a moment’s notice to knee-jerk branding others with epithets, we seem to have lost our ability to be civil to one another in the thick of debate. And there seem to be fewer and fewer exceptions in either secular or religious circles. And yet, thankfully, I experienced some refreshing exceptions recently.
I was blessed with the opportunity to speak at an open forum alongside Ravi Zacharias at my alma mater, the University of Michigan, on the topic “What Does It Mean To Be Human?” Every one of the 3,500 seats at Hill Auditorium was filled by atheists, agnostics, Christians, and people from different religious faiths. During the question-and-answer period, an erudite young man identifying himself as an atheist opened his question with an interesting comment: “I first want to thank the university for allowing this event to happen on campus so that we can hear and interact with differing viewpoints. I didn’t see any cars on fire or broken windows.” Of course, he was referring to recent incidents at the University of California at Berkeley where protestors ignited fires and damaged property in reaction to a lightning rod speaker who had come to that campus. In the weeks surrounding the Berkeley incident, the news was awash with similar stories at other prestigious universities. In March 2017, students at Middlebury College in Vermont protested a speech by controversial scholar Charles Murray. The protest erupted into physical assaults against both Murray and a Middlebury faculty member, leaving her with a twisted neck and a visit to the ER.
The stunning applicability of ages-old biblical wisdom shows how holy writ remains eternally contemporary. In Proverbs 29, Solomon wrote that “Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath. . . . A fool gives full vent to [anger], but [the] wise … quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:8, 11). At Berkeley, Middlebury College, and other similar institutions, some protesters gave full vent to their anger, yet those protests could have happened without mayhem and violence.
Contrast has a way of clarifying things, as author Os Guinness would say. Our open forum at the University of Michigan had its share of challenging questions. In fact, most of the questions came from skeptics. The evening was lively, yet civil. The students didn’t shut us down; they engaged with ideas they may not have agreed with. And thankfully Ravi and I were able to articulate our Christian positions on life’s biggest questions without compromise, all the while holding each questioner’s dignity as sacrosanct. Happily, that same civility carried over to an even bigger crowd the next day at Michigan State University and again the following week at Indiana University. We were able to disagree because we intended to do so agreeably. In the days following those events, we had the pleasure of seeing some who started out disagreeing end up agreeing and embracing the gospel. Weeks before taking the podiums at those schools, we prayed specifically for ears to be sensitive, tongues to be judicious, and hearts to be compassionate. Again, in the wise words of Solomon, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27).
Let’s pause once more for self-assessment. Lest Christians think that Solomon’s wisdom applies only to others, we must remember that in the Culture of Confusion, we are as susceptible to the kind of anger that erupted at Berkeley, Middlebury, and elsewhere. As I write this, I’ve just read a message from a Christian friend lamenting how Christians cast aside Solomon’s advice and accosted both him and a Muslim for just having a calm conversation about their different religious beliefs. The group of Christians began yelling at the Muslim for being a “liar” and my friend for being a “charlatan” just because he refused to polemicize the discussion. In the Culture of Confusion, it’s seductively easy for any one of us to turn civility into a vice.
What a contrast to the attitude the apostle Paul passed down to his protégé Titus. “Remind them . . . to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1–2). Paul wasn’t against engaging in reasoned argument, but he was against quarreling, especially the kind that results in vilifying someone else. Why is it so important for Christians to speak evil of no one (yes, no one) and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (yes, all people)? Because the gospel message teaches that all of us are broken people, given to sin, anger, and even hatred. Those who claim allegiance to Christ are to be washed of such things, not by their own goodness, but by God’s mercy and grace. As Paul continues, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (v. 3).
One wonders if the people who accosted my friend and the Muslim he was chatting with had taken time to reflect on Paul’s words before giving full vent to their anger. What result did they expect? Did they expect the Muslim to suddenly drop all of his deeply held convictions because the decibel level had increased? Or, more likely, did they expect to set the situation aflame and bring heat, not light? Thankfully, my friend stayed in the conversation and nurtured his friendship with the Muslim. It is when we have a cool spirit, turn away wrath, and withhold our anger that our words—the message of the gospel of peace and clarity— can be heard. Students heard the gospel at the universities we visited because we were able to express our convictions without degrading anyone. And, thankfully, my friend was able to share his beliefs because he saw a person, not a target. With this kind of renewal and regeneration, Christians can—and should—speak with conviction and courage in the face of opposition, but we must do so in a way that recognizes that “we” were once—and in some ways still are—“them.”
Wise Words: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth
I often remind myself of another popular saying: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” That contemporary idiom is a paraphrase of Solomon’s centuries-old advice: “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (Proverbs 15:2).
Today it’s not only incredibly easy to broadcast our opinions or spread dubious stories, it’s also fashionable to do so hastily. With the advent of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook (a digital triumvirate Conan O’Brien has called “YouTwitFace”), and other social media platforms, everyone has become a journalist. But few of us take the time to verify our sources. This is true of the wider culture and sadly of Christians as well. Recall the Bible lawsuit discussed above. That was fake news, plain and simple, propagated at a breakneck pace by those bearing the name Christian. When we hear the term “the speed of light,” we think of the fastest something can travel. But in the social media age, perhaps we should change the phrase to “the speed of lies.”
Thankfully, there are many Christians who take great pains to share accurate stories and engage honestly with others. When they do, they emulate another biblical proverb: “One who walks in integrity will be safe, but whoever follows crooked ways will fall into the Pit” (Proverbs 28:18, NRSV). Integrity is the key word here, and we desperately need more of it. Integrity takes years to build and only moments to destroy. With all of the misinformation and disinformation, it would be easy to say that we should abandon the whole enterprise of social media engagement. Judging by the hunched gazes I observe at airports, though, social media use doesn’t appear to be fading. If Christians are to meaningfully contribute to the cultural conversation through social media, they must do so with integrity.9 Now the temptation is to quickly spread stories that uphold Christian views and values (perhaps even with some exaggerations) because “the other side” allegedly spreads misinformation so quickly that we have to level the playing field regardless of which “side” we’re on. That tactic is emblematic of what the post-truth Culture of Confusion is all about. It must not be the church’s teacher.
When our digital or verbal discussions lack integrity, there are consequences beyond mere misinformation. The shrapnel of our hasty and angry explosions wound real people. Christian social commentator Ed Stetzer called his fellow Christians to account for perpetuating a debunked conspiracy theory about the tragic death of Seth Rich, who once worked for the Democratic National Committee.10 The barrage of conspiracy theories that followed his murder forced Seth Rich’s parents to relive the tragedy. In their anguished words, “With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.”11
It’s a deep enough wound to bury your child. To have your memories of him stripped of sentimentality because of political machinations inflicts a deeper wound yet. Regardless of your politics or your religion, the Rich family’s waking nightmare ought to give us pause before we carelessly click “share” even one more time. Indeed, Jesus’ words on this point are direct and convicting: “On the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37 NRSV).
Those should be soul-shuddering words for followers of Christ. Words are meant to convey truth and bring life, not peddle falsehood or foster pain. That’s why God judges careless words so severely. In Christ, God himself is the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14). If Christians are his ambassadors, then they are called to carefully choose their words. Do our words convey truth? Do they convey life? Only then will our words be wise and clear in a Culture of Confusion.
Anger isn’t necessarily opposed to wise and compassionate words. When exercised with wisdom and restraint, anger can lead to positive change. Greed, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and other injustices ought to anger us. But may I say that anger, even if legitimate, can become sinful if unchecked by godly love for others and for the truth? Anger—even when directed at the appropriate things—can be sinful if it causes us to sacrifice clarity and truth for the sake of self-vindication. Susanna Wesley, famed preacher John Wesley’s mother, wisely taught her children about sin’s invidious creep into even our most legitimate motivations: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things: in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”12
We would do well to heed her words. Our indignation over the deterioration of the culture may be legitimate, but it can lead to sinful bitterness. Our anger over sickness, poverty, and moral decay may lead us to act, but it can also ensnare us into caring more about causes than about the people those causes were meant to help. That’s the fundamental danger inherent in failing to wisely use words. When we dance with the post-truth Culture of Confusion, the culture doesn’t change. It changes us, and not for the better. When we are so eager to believe the worst about others, we bring out the worst in ourselves. C. S. Lewis warned us against letting that darkness creep in:
Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.13
We may see ourselves reflected in Lewis’s words more than we care to. May we rise above such heart-clouding cynicism. May the church have a wise temperament that leads to wise words saturated with integrity and tempered with grace. And may those wise words lead to wise actions.
Wise Actions: Caring for the Culture
A central Christian principle is that all people are made in the image of God. Accordingly, all people must be treated with dignity and respect even (especially) when their ideas or behaviors challenge us or must be challenged by us. In Jesus’ day, a teacher of the law challenged him to identify which commandment was the greatest. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” He continued, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40). Jesus emphasized loving God and loving the people he created.
It’s fascinating that Jesus paired the command to love people with the command to love God. The legal scholars of his day would have thought this to be a blasphemous elevation of humanity. But Jesus did so because the person challenging him was a Pharisee, one who had dedicated his life to following all 613 laws in the Torah, but who had forgotten about caring for others in the process. In other words, in his zeal to express his love of God, he failed to love people. And in doing so, he actually failed to truly love God. One cannot love God but fail to love the people he created. That doesn’t require unconditional agreement or affirmation with everything a person believes or does. But it does entail compassion for that person. That love has motivated Christians historically. Paul Lee Tan expressed that “a Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks, a heart through which Christ loves, a mouth through which Christ speaks, a hand through which Christ helps.”14 In the days of the Roman Empire, both before and after Emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christians founded hospitals to care for all the people who needed help. And it was Christians, suffering under tremendous persecution in the Roman Empire, who aided the Roman pagans and bound their wounds nevertheless. As David Bentley Hart explains, “Even the [pagan] emperor Julian, who was all too conscious of the hypocrisies of which Christians are capable, was forced to lament, in a letter to a pagan priest, ‘It is a disgrace that these impious Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well.’”15 From the second century through the fourteenth and beyond, Christians rushed into plague-infected areas to aid the sick and dying while others fled, sometimes dying from the plague themselves. It was Christians who led the charge in England and the United States to end the vile slave trade.
Mark Twain is credited as saying, “History doesn’t repeat, but it sure does rhyme.” Today, although there are good secular and non-Christian organizations making a difference, Christians often still lead the way. From starting universities like Harvard, Oxford, and others to founding hospitals, to caring for the sick in Ebola-stricken West Africa only to contract Ebola themselves, those Christians whose actions are consistent with their words are helping to change the hearts of the very people who once opposed them. The coupling of wise words and wise actions doesn’t just get things done, it gets things— and people—changed. Matthew Parris, the well-known atheist, describes how the gospel message outpaces secular efforts to change the desperate situation in his African homeland. In an article entitled “As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God,” Parris wrote that secular “education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”16
Pause for a moment on the paradoxical depth of Parris’s carefully chosen words. He’s saying the Christian message has made the difference in Africa. That message is at once about the depravity of every human heart and the dignity of every human being. History indeed has rhymed. And when the gospel is the central chorus, the melody can be beautiful.
Wearing the Truth as a Coat
And so we return to Jakob and Cimmerman. Jakob had tried to share the gospel with Cimmerman, and Cimmerman resisted by pointing out that the corrupt church leaders wore their fancy clothes and holy garments to conceal the filthiness of their hearts.
Jakob posed a question to the embittered Cimmerman. He asked Cimmerman to suppose that someone had stolen his coat and boots and then robbed someone. What would Cimmerman say when the authorities came to arrest him as the misidentified perpetrator because the robber wore his stolen coat? Obviously, he would say that someone had stolen his coat, pretending to be him. Still unmoved, Cimmerman replied, “I do not believe in the name of your God.”
In the ensuing year, Jakob cultivated a friendship with Cimmerman. Cracks formed in Cimmerman’s stony veneer. He not only heard Jakob’s words but saw his temperament and benefited from his kindness. One day, looking at his friend through tearful eyes, Cimmerman expressed his newfound love of Jesus. He told Jakob, “You wear his coat well.”17
The post-truth Culture of Confusion is angry at Christians and rejects the message we carry. We must honestly assess our part in perpetuating the confusion and fomenting the anger. Centuries after Solomon, the apostle Paul wrote that when Christians encounter non-Christians, we are to be wise. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,” Paul tells us, “so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Notice that Paul didn’t say that we are to answer each question, challenge, controversy, or political issue. We are to answer people. Questions and controversies don’t need answers. People do.
The confusion and anger swirling about can be daunting. But if we have integrity and courage, we can change perceptions of the church and the gospel it carries. Integrity is the currency of truth. Courage is its backbone. When we adopt both, and perhaps only then, can the church wear Jesus’ coat well for all to see.
Abdu Murray is North American Director at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
Adapted from Saving Truth by Abdu Murray. Copyright © 2018 by Abdu H. Murray. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
1 See Fowler v. Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 17245 (E.D. Mich. 2009).
2 My initial response was that it sometimes bugs me that people, especially Christians, are a bit too eager to pick at flaws they see in their local churches’ pastors. Any critique should be measured with due respect for what the church is doing right. The fact is, being a pastor is a much tougher job than it used to be.
3 David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016), 27.
6 Kinnaman and Lyons, Good Faith, 59, quoting Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 199–200.
7 Marie Chapian, Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1978), 122.
8 Bradley R. E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You’ve Been Told (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2010).
9 For guidance on ethical uses of social media, see Brian Wassom, What Would Jesus Post? (Nashville: Westbow, 2013).
10 Ed Stetzer, “Christians, Repent (Yes, Repent) of Spreading Conspiracy Theories and Fake News — It’s Bearing False Witness,” Christianity Today Online, May 31, 2017, www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/may/christians-repent-conspiracy-theory-fake-news.html.
11 Mary Rich and Joel Rich, “We’re Seth Rich’s Parents: Stop Politicizing Our Son’s Murder,” Washington Post, May 23, 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/were-seth-richs-parents-stop-politicizing-our-sons-murder/2017/05/23/164cf4dc-3fee-11e7–9869-bac8b446820a_story.html?utm_term=.21f23f46aec9.
12 Adam Clarke, Memoirs of the Wesley Family (London: J. Kershaw, 1823), 270 (emphasis mine).
13 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), 118.
14 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, 1996).
15 David Bentley Hart, quoting Julian, Epistle 22, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 45.
16 Matthew Parris, “As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God,” December 27, 2008, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/as-an-atheist-i-truly-believe-africa-needs-god-3xj9bm80h8m (emphasis mine).
17 Chapian, Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy, 123.