A couple days ago, I wrote about our need to control our anger when we discuss the issue of redefining marriage. I was planning on writing this post anyway, but I couldn’t get to it the day after that post. Then today I find out that one of my friends whose goal is to see Christ magnified and to pursue goodness and equality toward everyone got a bunch of hate mail and mean, graceless rebuttal posts in response to a blog she wrote. I’m convinced now, more than ever, that we need to do a much better job of being Christlike toward one another.
The passage I mentioned in the last post was Ephesians 4:17-5:21, focusing on Ephesians 4:26-27.
Ephesians 4 ends this way:
Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Alright, now, Paul – the Holy Spirit through Paul – commands us to put aside wrath, anger, malice, slander, etc. and then instructs us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another.
Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Then Paul links the commands at the end of chapter 4 with being “imitators of God” and walking “in love.”
Now, Paul doesn’t pull any punches. He’s not afraid to call sin what it is, and call those to whom he writes to repent – or to call us to repent. Ephesians 5:3-14 is basically Paul saying “Don’t do these things, but do these instead.” Don’t be sexually immoral, but be pure. Don’t covet or be an idolater, walk as “children of light.” He begins his message against immorality and idolatry by first telling them to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving – to be imitators of God, who is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4).
Then in 5:15-16 Paul admonishes us to walk “as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ok, so, to put it bluntly, Paul isn’t an idiot. He knows that when he says “Don’t do that, but do this instead” that the elders, deacons, and lay people (to put it in modern day structure) of the church at Ephesus are going to have to deal with sin in their lives, and in the lives of other Christians within their church. They are going to have to repent daily of their own sin, and are at times going to have to call others to repent of sin as well. He sandwiches this admonishment in between “be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving” and walk “as wise.”
I believe he did this to set up the framework for how Christians should use Scripture for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). There are going to be times when Christians are stuck in patterns of sin. There are going to be times when Christians don’t see Scripture address something as sin, and may need to be corrected. There are going to be times when we have doctrinal differences, misunderstandings, and frustrations with the way other Christians see and interpret Scripture. Paul isn’t saying don’t address that or work through that, but he is saying that as we work through the way people view Scripture, we should be kind, understanding, and forgiving.
This isn’t saying we should patronize them and treat them like they don’t know anything, but that we should be charitable. I mean, we treat Christians who have different opinions like they’re out to destroy the name of Christ! What Christian who says they love Jesus would set out to do that?
Now, heresy is real, and Paul dealt with his fair share of it. How do we deal with wolves? We shoot them (figuratively). But that’s NOT the first step. We start with teaching, correcting, trying to HELP the person come back to what Scripture teaches and what God commands. It’s only after every attempt to restore the person to faith (Gal. 6:1) that we even consider thinking about that person as a wolf.
Those walls are high and deep. Someone disagreeing on gender roles doesn’t make them a heretic. Someone arguing for equality for homosexual couples doesn’t make them a heretic. I may not agree with those views, and I may think they aren’t Biblically faithful, and they would turn around and think the same of my beliefs in this area, but that doesn’t mean that we assume the other is trying to tear down the kingdom of God! Too many of us think we’re called to be snipers for the kingdom of God and shoot anything that moves!
Maybe they’re just working through a new concept they’ve learned. Maybe they’ve had poor teaching, or worse, poor examples. I know I’ve had my share of that, and it’s taken patient men walking with me through it to get me back to beliefs that are Scriptural. Maybe their heartstrings get pulled for certain areas and it makes it hard to see how Scripture can be so strict about something. We need to be charitable, and assume they have the best intentions and really seek truth.
Lastly, we need to be wise in how we go about it. It needs to be profitable. We need to prayerfully consider whether or not debating some of these issues with people not even in our own local church is worth it. Christ is building His Church, and He’s big enough to handle the plethora of beliefs out there and still build the Church. Sometimes engaging on these issues is worth it – I mean, if not then why am I writing this? But we need to be wise and pray and consider our words before we write.
Paul commands us to be wise “because the days are evil.” The world, Satan and demons, and our own sin nature are bent on crushing the image of Christ, and bent on crushing the Church. Now, they can’t crush Christ or the Church, but they can definitely affect how the lost see the Church and how they see Christ. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen non-Christians, even atheists, read Christian blogs.
What if those blogs focused on hope, redemption, and the love of God that is bigger than their sin, even while not being afraid to call sin what it is? What if we showed the love of Christ to the world through charitable, loving, and wise discourse about our disagreements?
instead of tearing each other down?