“Speak the truth with love.”
To a Christian, this saying represents the heart and soul of a Godly lifestyle. It reminds us to treat everyone with the same grace Christ showed us, but to never abandon our convictions no matter how personal the cost. To a secular listener however, this phrase is the dogmatic war-call of religious cruelty. Its translation is nothing short of: Be hurtful, be judgmental, and then hide behind your religion to avoid responsibility. Lack of respect and understanding has created a dividing line in the sand that neither side is eager to cross.
So how do we restore communication when trust is lost? Andrew Barber, of The Gospel Coalition, believes we can begin by letting go of our fear. In a recent article, Barber acknowledged that Christians are prone to “circling the wagons” whenever confronted by obstacles to our faith. For examples, he pointed out the dueling reactions Christians had to God’s Not Dead and Noah, two uniquely different films that both carried a Biblical message. Noted Barber,
“I couldn't help but think that, after years of study and earnest engagement with the story of Noah, director Darren Aronofsky had shown up with a genuine attempt at communication only to have it torn up in his face.”
His statements were followed by an affirmation of Christian principles, but also a reminder that the focus of the Church should be on God, not general morality.
“I'm not asking Christians to give up our convictions. There is much to be admired about evangelicals' pro-life sacrifices and desire for doctrinal purity, for example. But if our convictions don't lead us to faithfully love God and man, what do they accomplish? We may feel threatened by our neighbors, but the world will never overcome God and his gospel. We stand on a sure foundation of a true event: the inbreaking of God through the person of Jesus.”
Like Barber, many Christians believe that the first priority of the Church should be sharing the Good News of Christ. When we put other agendas before this, we immediately backslide into a community where “following the rules” equals salvation. In his latest blog, Crosswalk editor John UpChurch reminded readers that the love of God supersedes “good behavior”.
“I am the problem with the church. When you come to the place where I serve, where I worship, I’ll definitely disappoint you at some point. I am, at times, selfish, narcissistic, impatient, self-righteous, and fake. I’ve helped and hurt people, cajoled and chided them, loved and loathed them—maybe even on the same Sunday. You see, flawed human beings like me are the problem with the church.”
“But for all the problems people like us can cause, there’s Jesus. For all those abused and broken by congregations, there’s Jesus. For all those dreams shattered in the pews, there’s Jesus. His holiness is transformational.”
What about you? What are your thoughts on the subject?
*Ryan Duncan is the Culture Editor for Crosswalk.com