You all know how often verses like Mt. 7:1 are taken out of context, especially by unbelievers against believers. But it’s also a very popular practice among believers. But as I’ve written in the past, the problem is not restricted to taking things out of context, but to a spreading double-standard in the Christian community.
I keep seeing believers write about the need to be civil, to tone things down, even to the point of making sure we’re not persuasive (?!) lest we offend someone. (It should be noted that this ban on persuasiveness has been used in Canada to silence Christian charities and ministries.) Christians have become so weak and hyper-sensitive that they cannot tolerate even mild disagreement.
But the biggest issue of all is that these censors have apparently appointed themselves arbiters of where the sensitivity line is drawn.
Why is it that only they get to set the standards? Why must everyone else be muzzled to the censors’ personal satisfaction? Who are they to tell other believers that they aren’t being mild enough? If someone expresses hurt feelings over someone else’s style, why is the guilt always thrown on the latter? Why is the former never asked to be more tolerant of others? How, pray tell, can anyone learn or grow without the use of persuasive arguments? And by personal experience, I know that even if I word things so generically that all I do is present my view, there are many who take that as trying to persuade.
The truth is, if somebody doesn’t like your style, you will never meet their standards. You would literally have to become someone you’re not in order to be accepted. The only world in which many believers today would “feel safe” is one where everyone is homogenized and devoid of convictions which differ from those of the hyper-sensitive. Yet no one demands to know where they got the right to decide where the lines are drawn. No one can point to a scripture passage that says believers have the right to “feel safe” and have freedom from conflict. In fact, it is the strong who no longer feel safe.
Now as I’ve stated before, I’m not saying we should trample on the weak. But neither should the weak demand that the strong be their doormats. The weak have an obligation too-- to not judge the strong. The command for the strong to be considerate is no more binding than the command for the weak to be tolerant. It’s a two-way street where each believer-- including the sensitive-- is to be considerate and tolerant of the other.
Acts 18:4, 2 Cor. 5:11, Jude 1:3 etc. all tell us about the need to be persuasive and even to contend. We hear the phrase “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) all the time, but what many want today is for silk to lightly brush against silk. They want absence of conflict, but that will guarantee zero growth. Unity based upon outward behavior is a false unity; true unity is found in agreement on essential doctrines like salvation and evangelism.
We have the NT to guide us as to how believers should grow and learn to behave. That is the authority to which I bow, and the standard to which I aspire. If my present condition is not exactly the way others demand, then I would ask them why they presume to know the level of spiritual growth I should have. I would also ask them why the likes of Paul, who told us to follow his example (Phil. 3:17), was allowed to use mockery, sarcasm, crudity, and great force; where is the fine print that exempts those particular examples from being followed? Yet again, even without following those examples, we would still be reprimanded for our harshness and persuasiveness.
I know that even when I write such things as this in my own blog, it will be taken by some as hateful and mean. But in the light of what I see in the Bible, especially verses like Rev. 3:16, I believe there is ample room for those of us with strong convictions, and that we have the right and the duty to express them. The parts of the Body, no matter how well-intentioned, still cannot say to each other, “I have no need of you!” But they do; they silence those with convictions and opinions. They never tell us where the Style Rule Book is, or who wrote it. If we do try to fit in, we walk on eggshells because we never know when we’ve stepped over that elusive line.
Han Solo, in StarWars Ep. IV, said what many of us feel: “I prefer a straight fight to all this sneakin’ around!” Some of us get great benefit over grappling with others over various issues. Not all of us can afford the fancy clothes required for the formal dinner party.
Can you tolerate us? Will you listen? Or must we remain outside in the rain, looking in the windows?