2015-07-03 - How to Respond
I have thought a lot about how to respond to many things that have recently been creating a firestorm on social media. As one e-card on Facebook put it, "My Facebook feed looks like a battle broke out between the Confederate Army and a Skittles factory.” Confederate flags, racism, gay marriages - and that’s just this week’s hot button topics. There will be different ones in the months ahead, just as there were different ones before these, but the questions that I ask of myself on each of these are “Do I say anything?” and “How?”
Finally after some careful thought I simply wrote:
“Rather than shouting what we’re against, let’s show Who we are for. Jesus Christ, lover of my soul, is still King & Savior. Nothing’s changed.”But even after satisfying the initial urge to respond I still wondered how to respond to the Christians who were turning their images into celebratory rainbows, the Christians who were going to war over it, the homosexuals with a definite interest in it, and the atheist who just wanted to stir the pot and thinks morals are completely relative. So how should I respond as I Christian? I know these are questions that many of the youth in my care may be asking themselves, so I’ve been thinking a lot of what to say to them. That is when a passage came to me, about Jesus growing up.
John 1:14-17 (NKJV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” 16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Jesus was “full of grace and truth”. As his followers, so should we. We are to live out the gospel, and the gospel is grace and truth.
Colossians 1:3-6 (NKJV) 3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
The truth is that we are all sinners - the liars, the murderers, the thieves, the adulterers, the addicts to sex and drugs, the murderers, the gluttons, and yes … the homosexuals. The truth is that sin separates us from God, whether it’s a little white lie, or a 50-person killing spree. Sin is sin, and it separates us from God. The truth is also that we cannot do anything, to clean ourselves up.
But truth is only half the story, for by grace, God loves us in our sins enough that he sent Jesus to cleanse us of sin, so we could be in communion with him. I do not understand how the blood of an innocent man takes away the penalty from me, but by faith I know that it does. By grace, God allows us to turn from sins and turn to him. By grace, he freely offers the gift of eternal life with him in Heaven.
And that is the truth and grace of the gospel. So how do we live it out?
First, we cannot lie and say sin is not sin. Sin must be recognized, but we should let the Holy Spirit do the convicting, and not us. Say what needs to be said, and then leave the rest up to God. But say it with grace and with love. I Corinthians 13:1 puts it this way, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (NKJV) Without love, our words are like a big old cowbell, gonging in your ear, and it quickly gets annoying. How are your words sounding?
Second, live truthfully. Do not live a life of unrepented sin, and then point out the sins in others. Jesus told the men accusing the woman of adultery, that anyone without sin should cast the first stone. Elsewhere, he cautioned that we are to take care of the log in our own eye, before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s. How is your life looking?
Third, always show grace. Don’t belittle others, or mock them. Know when to wisely walk away graciously from an argument, even if you know you are right. Jesus said it this way, "Don’t cast your pearls before swine." Love people in whatever state they are in. Awhile back, I heard a preacher say something that has stuck with me. I think he was using it one way, but I apply it to how I try to discuss sin and other things with people. It’s okay to not be okay; it’s not okay to stay that way. How do you show grace?
As sold out Christians rather than sell-outs that are on fire for God who is a consuming fire in our lives how are we to respond? How does fire respond?
First, fire burns and incinerates. It burns the thing on fire and the things around it; fire hurts. It does hurt sometimes to share the truth. Christians will be persecuted for their stand but the convicted sinners will also have their conscience seared by the Holy Spirit when we let him work through us. Remember though that our words are just a noisy cowbell or clanging cymbal if not done with love so tread carefully. There should be no bashing, name calling, or kicking and screaming.
Second, fire also brightens and illuminates. Not only does fire illuminate the sinful things that hide in the dark corners but also it shows itself above all beyond showing what we stand against. Items far away from fire may be somewhat exposed by the fire but most clearly the fire reveals itself to all the darkness. We should show the Christ that burns brightly within us more than the sin that surrounds us.
A few days ago, Heath Walton, a friend of mine and fellow youth pastor, wrote:
“Let the drums of the gospel resound so deafeningly over the field of battle, that it strikes the Enemy with the fearful truth, that no matter how violently devastating their onslaught may be--they will never prevail. Let the Earth hear this wonderful report – Christ wins."
Beat the drums with the sticks of truth and grace.
All scripture references from KJV (King James Version) unless otherwise noted