Winning Arguments or Souls?
Yelp is an online review site where people share their perceptions of local businesses. Often before my wife tries a new restaurant, she will check the yelp reviews just to see what it might be like to eat there. Recently I left my first ever review of a barbecue place in town. I had to let good food seekers know that the ribs there were anointed! For real, go check out "Back Deck BBQ" in Louisville, you won't regret it. But anyways, people look on yelp and the reviews give you indication of whether you should eat there or not. Sadly, in today's time If seekers were to look up a "yelp" review of the church, I think most reviews would say, "They sure do fight a lot." Scrolling social media feeds and listening to conversations of people around me, I see a lot of quarreling. Republicans vs. Democrats. Black Lives Matter people vs. All Lives Matter people. No mask rights people vs. pro mask people. There's no shortage of things that people are arguing over, and I'll just be the one to say that, if I were an outsider looking in, there's not much about the way we speak to and about each other that would compel me to want to be part of the church.
Am I saying it's wrong to have an opinion? No. Am I saying it's wrong to share your opinion? No. Am I saying we shouldn't respond when people share their opinion? No. But we don't have to tear each other apart with our words while we do it. As followers of Jesus and disciple makers there's one thing that should always consume our thoughts before doing or saying anything. That one thing is the glory of Christ. How does what I'm saying and how I'm saying it reflect on Jesus? How does it represent Jesus? How differently would you post if you considered that post as a yelp review on the church? Paul says this in 2 Timothy 2.
"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,"
2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV
As those who are purchased by the blood of Jesus and aiming to reach our neighbors for Jesus, we are not to be characterized by fighting, but kindness. Surely we don't think that we can humiliate and demean someone into the kingdom of God. Surely we don't believe that proving ourselves right at the expense of relationship is the way to win others over. But this is exactly what many in the church are doing. I fear we are more interested in winning arguments than winning souls.
Now maybe you would say, "I'm not really one of those people" or "We are called to be bold, and so I'm just zealous." But ask yourself an honest question of self reflection. In a week, do you talk to people more about your opinions on cultural topics or Jesus? This reveals a lot about what drives us. Imagine if every Christian gave as much zeal and intentionality towards evangelism as they did posting about politics. We would turn the city upside down in a year's time.
I firmly believe that the apologetic of our current day is compassion. What stands out against the backdrop of quarreling is an ability to feel others' pain. The ability to listen to and understand others. The ability to disagree without maliciousness. As disciple makers, let's be more concerned with this. At the end of the day, let's not be more known for what we are against, but rather what we are for. We are to be for loving people. We are to be for God's word. We are to be for seeing every obstacle that hinders people from encountering the changing gospel of Jesus Christ removed so that sinners can be made into new creations. All of this because we have truly been changed by the Christ. We have been raised with the one who was full of grace and truth. We now have the identity of the one who laid his life down for others and prayed for those who were crucifying him. We follow the one who demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners he died in our place.
Reality is, the cross of Christ is offensive enough. If we are going to offend someone, let it be because we are saying the bloody cross is the only way we can come to God. Let it be because we are calling them to repent and follow Jesus as king. Let's not let the offense be over how we treat others. To make disciples in our day, we must borrow a line from Christian rapper Flame who said -
"We gotta give gospel reasons we believe in the faith, the biblical way that our conscience is shaped, with the kindness that backs up our articulation."
Grace & Peace, Scott Long