Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Rules of Engagement for Christian Opposition

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;  having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.  For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” – 1 Peter 3:13-17

When I read these verses today, Mr. Dan Cathy, owner of Chick-Fil-A, and his recent battle over his open confession of his beliefs on homosexuality came to mind.  Now don’t turn me off yet.  I’m as tired of all that drama about him coming out-of-the-closet with his beliefs and all the haters as anyone!  It’s like playing a scratched record.  Eventually you stop hearing the music and all you hear is the scratch!  I fully agree with Mr. Cathy, as does God the Father and His Holy Word. But this really isn’t about Mr. Cathy.  But is this winning souls?  I fear that all the anger Christians have pushed out against the angry non-believers has done nothing but widen the gap between us. 

These verses tell us how to handle conflicts in beliefs both with non-believers and other believers (aka “the opponent”).  Here’s what He says:

1.      Don’t be afraid of them or worry about what they say.  If you are, consider the Holy chain-of-authority.  No one will harm you or hurt you without God’s either allowing it, or causing it.  He is in charge of all.  Some battles aren’t meant to be won, but are an exercise to grow you or your opponent.

2.      Be ready to give a reason for your beliefs.  God’s Word is either believed or it’s not.  If you’re talking to someone who sees it as just another book, you might as well stop talking.  But to those who believe God is true, His Word does prove as the source for all truth.  Do you know why you believe what you stand for?  If not, it’s best you find out before you discuss it. 

3.      Discuss it with Meekness and Fear. You don’t pound your beliefs out upon the opponent as if you were driving nails through their skull, you answer in meekness, and fear.  Fear of what? Fear of offending them!  It’s not about convincing them as much as it’s about not offending them.  If you offend an opponent with your steadfast beliefs that are true, you close a door that God has opened for you to discuss Him with them.  It’s about keeping that door open.  No one can learn when they turn a deaf ear, and all your shouting will certainly deafen them!  We’re all called to be gentle, and part of being gentle is knowing when to just shut up. 

4.      You have a choice.  You can suffer for doing good, or YOU can suffer for doing evil.  God takes no pleasure in seeing His children proclaim His word through hatred.  You can either persuade with a tongue that’s as gentle as a morning breeze and be blessed, or you can slice and dice that heart God loves in front of you with the blade in your mouth.  But if you choose slicing and dicing, know that your reward for pushing out God’s word just went up in smoke. 

Few are the chances to see a Christian at work actually being a Christian at heart.  But when you do, and when the opponent does finally believe, is it not worth it?  Is it not worth their seeing the truth as God reveals it to just let Him take over?  We can affect what the opponent hears and knows, but God can affect how they feel about it.  The heart is His territory.  Don’t go stomping on God’s ground and making them feel angry.  If you will be gentle, even with all your passion, you will find that they will be drawn to Him like water running downhill.

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