Christian Speech in Cultural Engagement: An Identity Crisis
- Tuesday, April 04, 2006
When the bible says that "no corrupt word" is to proceed out of our mouths, there are no exceptions. When the bible says that we are to speak "what is good for necessary edification," that means that our words are to build others up and not tear them down. Note too that Paul says our words often are not what people deserve. Our words are to "impart grace to the hearers." We speak words they do not deserve. Moreover, when we speak in a harsh manner, no matter what the context or rationale may be, we "grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Not to be simplistic, but it seems necessary in light of what goes out over the airwaves, when the bible says that "all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking [must] be put away from [us], with all malice," there are no exceptions. Because Christ forgave us, we are to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. In the Christian talk arena, little kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness is expressed. What is expressed most of the time is bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Brethren, this ought not be!
At the same time, the Christian worldview is sorely lacking not only in the tone of conversation but also in the content of the conversation. The immigration issue may serve as an example. Regardless of the solution to this problem, one Christian compared immigrants from Mexico to rodents and roaches. This comparison is nothing but arrogance and prejudice and flies in the face of a gospel that breaks down all barriers between people (Gal. 3:28).
Another Christian stated that if immigrants are allowed to work for wages at the starvation level "our" lifestyle could suffer some what. Aside from the economic error of that statement, note the logic here: it is better for someone to actually starve than for our lifestyle to suffer at all. Where is the biblical worldview in that sentiment? Where is the love and compassion? Where is the focus on the other world? This world is not our home and the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (Phil 3:20; 1 Tim. 6:10).
Talk of "our country" and "those people" is antithetical to the Christian worldview. We are what we are by grace. We are here by grace. We too were once aliens and immigrants in more ways than one (Eph. 2:11f).
For Christians to say we should deny health care to immigrants can only grieve the heart of God. How can we be so selfish when we've been given so much? Have we missed the point of the Good Samaritan: that our neighbor is anyone in need? Certainly we need to help illegal immigrants become legal. But deny them health care to force them back across the border? The bible is clear: "Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Ex. 23:9)."
Further, what scriptural justification do Christian leaders have for calling people idiots, whackos, or other names? This type of thing may be Rush Limbaugh-like but it is certainly not Christ-like.
Frankly, the issue here is a lack of love. Our Lord and Master commanded, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:43-48)."
Don't miss this vital connection: we must love our enemies, bless them, and do good to them, in order that we may be sons of our Father in heaven. Only when we live in this way do we prove ourselves to be sons of God. When we act differently, we say to the world that we are sons of Satan. This issue is not one of personality but one of identity. Are we or are we not the sons of God?
Dr. Paul J. Dean is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Greer, SC, and hosts a daily, live, call-in radio talk show: "Calling for Truth." He serves as the Director of Applied Ministry at the Greenville, SC extension of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors. Read Paul Dean's weblog on Crosswalk.com.
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