Whether potential threats to faithful Christian life and thought come from inside or outside the church – how does one go about contending for the faith without being contentious?
It is too easy to confront bad attitudes with other bad attitudes. But when we counter falsehoods with other falsehoods, or respond inappropriately to inappropriateness, we are not doing well. We are not helping those we may be trying to so much as adding complexity to the problematic situation.
For instance, if I have concerns about prominent Christian leaders who have placed themselves increasingly on the Woke side of the fault line in the modern American church, it does not necessarily follow that any and all ways of expressing those concerns are valid and helpful.
And perhaps a challenge issued by Nathan Smith, an old acquaintance of mine, is good to remember here. If these men were sitting across a table from me when I said these things, would I express my concerns with more respect and gentleness than calling one of them a ‘knucklehead’?
Concerning Spades, and What To Call Them
I personally am a fan of calling a spade by its name, however much I may sometimes be tempted to also gild the lily when I do. But that does not mean I am always setting a good example when I sprinkle in colorful adjectives to describe how I feel about certain spades in particular.
Nevertheless, what do we do about the examples set by Jesus or John the Baptist when they rebuke the scribes and teachers of the Law? White-washed tombs and sons of Satan have never been terms of endearment – except perhaps to avowed Satanists. And it was not for no reason that John was beheaded or that Jesus was arrested, tried, flogged, and crucified.
So, again. We come to that central question. How do we contend for the faith without being contentious?
However thorny that question may seem or actually be, we do well to grapple with it in earnest as part of our pursuit of the charges to both “be sober-minded; be watchful” and to “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience…”
So here I am, Lord. Send me.
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