“With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape” (Proverbs 11:9).
Tomorrow we remember Good Friday, so I thought I’d revisit Insults Might We Have Hurled?. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). But instead of wholesome talk, which is intended to build people up according to their needs, we see more and more of what I hope is well-intentioned, but no less misguided, approach to evangelism and witness. We cannot peddle a counterfeit Jesus under the guise of inclusion; that’s not love. Such people bring to my mind images of nineteenth century charlatans peddling miracle elixirs across the frontier West. “With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape” (Proverbs 11:9).
The past few years have been particularly eye opening in the United States. I’m not saying there hasn’t been any good, but I’ve witnessed some the worst people have to offer. I already know the world is wicked, so its awfulness comes as no big shock to me. The world has always pushed the envelope on depravity, and generations continue to be indoctrinated as wickedness is normalized in our culture. However, what I have found extremely alarming is the wickedness coming from within the church in response.
“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’” (Mark 15:29-30). Christians disagree about many things, but one thing that Christians seem to universally agree on is that it was our sin that put Christ on the cross; thus, each one of us may as well have picked up a hammer and drove a nail into Jesus ourselves. And then I got to wondering; based on our behavior, what insults might we have hurled at Jesus. We would have probably yelled at our Lord to strike back; remind him that he didn’t start this fight, but he ought to finish it; implored that he deserves to be happy; we would have probably even accused him of being a doormat. Translate our behavior into words, and we sound an awful lot like Satan when he tempted Jesus in the desert, and worse yet, that’s what the world too often sees in our witness.
If we distort basic, straight forward teachings like “love your neighbor as yourself”, “don’t store up treasures for yourselves on earth”, “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemy”, “forgive seventy times seven times” , then what havoc would we wreak with hidden knowledge about things like fallen angels and other deep secrets of eternity? We treat the Word of God like a buffet. We gorge on what sounds pleasing to our ears and fills our bellies at the time, while we pass on what we find uncomfortable or displeasing. I’m glad Jesus spoke up, that Peter and Paul spoke up, that Stephen spoke up, among others. They caused civil unrest, were thrown in prison and even killed, and most undoubtedly, offended people. When Paul preached the Good News to the Gentiles and told them they were worshiping false gods, I wonder how much he was worried about offending them. But our speech should be gracious and seasoned with salt, to be effective and preserved from corruption (Mark 9:50; Colossians 4:6).
Indeed, if we massage our message in order to suit the world and avoid offense, under the guise of reaching people, then on behalf of whom are we now reaching them? (2 Timothy 4). Not God. But we must also keep in mind that Christianity overcame the Roman Empire with evangelism and martyrdom, not by the sword. Our talk is growing, especially, unwholesome and quarrelsome (Ephesians 4:29); this is not the way. The news we have received is too Good!
I’ve written before that Jesus called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers”, and the apostle Peter told Simon Magus that his heart was “full of bitterness and captive to sin.” Jesus is God, and Peter was surely operating in the Holy Spirit. Yet today, Jesus and Peter would be the ones vilified, while the Pharisees and Simon the Sorcerer would be indulged. It’s nothing short of a tragedy that Jesus, Himself, and the apostle Peter, would likely be tossed out of any number of churches onto the street. Our love has grown so shortsighted, I wonder if we would even recognize Jesus. What insults might we have hurled at Him then? What insults might we hurl at Him today? I freely admit these are not easy questions; they sting; they convict; but they need to be asked by all of us.
My plan is to continue my Roman holiday next time by picking up with Romans 10!
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