Opinions on faith and life

The Privileged

2008-11-29

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?

8 Comments

Lin

"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."

And this is exactly what has happened to so many people. Therefore, you never really know where they stand or what they believe because truth does not become the goal. False unity becomes the goal. I can so relate to this post because I lived in this world of smoke and mirrors for so long. And because many churches are so large now, the distance between what is seen and what actually is--is very large most do not really know their fellow believers at all. Everything is face value. The blogosphere is even worse. Clear and direct communication between believers is crucial. Clear and direct communication is not unloving. It is honest. I prefer honesty to game playing.

And I am talking to myself here! We must quit playing word games with each 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."

John the Baptist would be thrown out of most churches today. Most of the OT Prophets would not be tolerated. When people say, well I am not Paul so that does not apply to me,I have to wonder if they do not realize that Paul’s goal was to be Christlike and preach/teach/model the truth. That is why he confronted Peter publicly. And why the strong expect to be confronted with wrong teaching and/or behavior.

I heard a missionary speak,who had been away in a third world country for over 15 years, andhad come back and was preaching all over the US. His wife was blown away at how thin skinned Christians had become in 15 years since they had been back!! She was really disappointed that so many walked around offended by sermons, other Christians, etc. No one can be questioned, not even their beliefs of biblical interpretation can be questioned and this includes many leaders! (We really have mistranslated what love between believers means)

" 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."

I found in the seeker world that this ’unity’ teaching was used to actually control people and keep deep serious questions about the teaching and even the behavior of some leaders from being asked.

If one asked about the teachers interpretation or disagreed, they were considerd divisive. If they were concerned about the behavior of a leader or fellow believer, they were being judgemental and after all, you are a sinner, too. (with this attitude no pastor can preach about the seriousness of sin...and guess what? Many have stopped)

"an you tolerate us? Will you listen? Or must we remain outside in the rain, looking in the windows?"

This really struck home to me when I witnessed first hand the syrupy sweet outward behavior of many leaders who were deceptive, greedy, and power mongering behind the scenes. They really believed that if they projected a nice exterior, they would be ok. IT was more about being popular and liked than it was about truth. I think that when folks come to the place where all they want is truth, much of this will stop. That is what it took for me. I was just confronted by someone recently about an interpretation. I thanked them! It drove me to study deeper and I am still praying about it and asking for illumination of nothing but pure truth.

There is a real difference in how we treat/judge fellow believers than how we treat the world. Listen to Paul writing to professing believers in 1 Corin 5:

9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person"

Can you imagine if this passage was taken very seriously in the Body? No more game playing with words. No more attacking because of differnt translations. The goal would be seeking unity in the Truth of the Word. Seeking the Holy Spirit to teach us and having charity toward those who differ on a secondary doctrine.

You and I disagree on some doctrine and both of us are strong people. But, I believe you are a follower of Christ and I simply will not allow those differences to offend me. Therefore we can exchange interpretations and sharpen each other.

We simply cannot grow in Christ if we are always worried about being offended. Those offenses are all around us every day all the time. It becomes the focus and leads us away from seeking truth.

Paula Fether

Good stuff there, Lin. Yes, that’s the thing about iron sharpening iron: it makes sparks! And sparks have quite gone out of fashion.

I value those like you who can disagree strongly yet remember what the important things are, because it shows depth of conviction and willingness to take a stand. It’s the opposite of bland or spineless. It discerns between love and treason, between healing and concealing wounds.

Greg Anderson

Count me in y’all. Some of my "left-of-center" political views have rubbed, and will continue to rub many a believer’s fur the wrong way. I have been accused of everything from closet socialism to being a disloyal American for criticizing the war in Eye-rack.

Oh well... as they say. Not all Christians will have the same outlook, nor will they be in lock step with what is considered to be the one and the only acceptable world view for Christians.

Jamie

The root of all that is wrong with America lies with those who refuse to preach the truth fearlessly and uncompromisingly. It is the preaching of the word through the power of the Holy Spirit that has the ability to birth repentance and change lives.

A self-centered coward should hold no place of influence.

Lin

"A self-centered coward should hold no place of influence."

Jaime, You have hit on something here that is quite a myth in America. Because of my background I was in tons of companies across the US dealing with many leaders. Since my focus was organizational development, leadership, team building and all that stuff was the main reason I was there. My colleagues could tell you that we stood stunned at how many leaders were not promoted because they were the truthful, honest, unselfish mavericks who wanted the best for the company and staff. No, it was almost always the opposite. It was the person who played the game well...the one who could manipulate the best and most of the time stayed on the fence until they could be assured which way the wind blew.

Unconsciously, we tend to admire those who can play this deceptive game well and climb the ladder. They are clever and smart. But, you had better not put your trust in them.

I am to the point, I cannot trust those who play the word games well. They manipulate with words and meanings. They do not answer direct questions. They give you monologues that have hidden meanings you are to try and decipher and if you can’t then YOU are the problme. Many times their words and actions do not match...and many times they hide their actions behind others.

There is a serious leadership crisis in many organizations because of the cult of personality we have all fallen for not only in business but in Christendom. I saw it every day for 18 years. It is the main reason so many people hate their jobs. (This always came out in SWOP analyses!)

Self centerd cowards tend to get promoted.

Jamie

Lin, you don’t have to convince me of how backwards things are, I know exactly where you’re coming from. In the preschool I worked at, the licensed psychologist kept having sessions with a very troubled little girl. It was money money money and medication, yet no answers.

It took me around thirty minutes to get her (the child) to tell me about how a sixteen year old male cousin had molested her. The little girl wasn’t lying, she was only four years old and she was constantly acting out in a sexual way, and also had a lot of anger. It wasn’t rocket science getting her to open up. Because I "embarrassed" the family by opening up such a taboo can of worms, I was made to feel like the criminal. The parents were very well off financially, and were also the strangest people I ever encountered. The psychologist was a coward; It all got swept under the rug, the parents eventually divorced.. and the mother took the girls and moved away. I quit my job.. started taking some classes in order to work my way toward a degree in psychology (it was a passion), but the Lord spoke to my heart and let me know that I would be worthless to Him if I went through with it. He also didn’t allow things to work out here at home in order for me to go through with it. But... I sure found out how backwards things are, and that there are definitely people in positions they shouldn’t be in, in every major institution out there, with the institutional church at the top of the heap.

That’s the world and it’s systems for ya.

pinklight

Well thanks Paula and everyone for the comments! I liked reading this all!

Paula Fether

Glad to help, pink!