An issue that has come up on several blogs is the need for compassion, mercy, versus the art form of mockery, ridicule, and provocation. Pastor Wilson also touched on this issue a few days ago in a post called, “Win or Winnow,or Both?”
To winnow is actually to blow air through wheat, to rid it of its chaff, a word I am now quite fond of.
So the question before us is, “Shouldn’t Christians always be nice, kind, gentle, humble, prompt to turn the other cheek, forgiving, submissive, and conflict avoident?”
The answer is actually both a yes and a no. In spirit indeed, we are called to cultivate those things, to pay attention to them, to avoid needless strife for strife’s sake alone. To be humble, to be prompt to forgive. To be kind to one another.
The problem arises when you come to the realization that it is impossible to ever speak the truth without causing offense to someone. To live amicably and graciously among ALL people, requires one to lie, suppress, and deny Truth. It is impossible to say no and to stand against evil, without revoking, at least temporarily, someone’s access to compassion and unconditional love.
I remember the first time I revoked a kid’s freedom, withdrew my compassion, by simply turning off a video game. I was mean, cruel, lacking empathy and all natural affection, let me tell you. Truly the most awful person on the planet…for a few hours at least. It truth it wasn’t a lack of compassion at all, it was some sensible authority rearing its ugly head, because of love. Because of compassion.
I feel as if I am somewhat of an expert on this subject, not from my own wisdom, but from having gotten it wrong so many times, from having erred on the side of compassion and mercy far too many times. All in good humor here, but God’s discipline is a real thing in the world, and apparently if you have the Lord’s favor, He shows up quite often.
Now if one is a bull in a China shop, prone to sharp words, harsh judgments, and recklessness, that is different matter, but those are not the kind of errors I have had, nor the kind I see too much of. Do we have a problem in the world with too many assertive Christians standing up for what we believe in, perhaps even being provocative about it and causing some offense? I think not. I think we suffer from the precise opposite.
Regardless of what afflicts the Body of Christ as a whole, what afflicted me was a desire to be kind, to seek the favor of people, and to huddle and hunker down in the bilge of the boat during storms rather than to stand up and risk rocking it. (God with His infinite sense of humor has now given me a church that looks precisely like an upside down boat, so He knows me very well.)
Something I take note of, I have not been harmed one bit by people standing up for the truth, no matter how ungraciously and ungracefully, but I sure have been harmed by those unwilling to do so. The very worst thing in the world is to look about and your entire backup army has fled for the hills. That is a genuine betrayal. I’ll take a thousand ungracious truth tellers over that any day.
I have been convicted about this issue several times and often written about it, because the foolishness is so comical…. after the fact. I have done many things I regret today and nearly every one of them involve complying when I should have not complied, when I should have stood fast and fought back. Fought back using ridicule and mockery if necessary. Engaged, rather than withdrawing.
I once quietly unplugged my tiny cross on the front porch when a neighbor said the light was annoying him. I took the cross off my neck when a client said it offended her. I let a couple of friends attack faith and just smiled politely and let those words fall on the ground unchallenged before me.
I kid you not, I actually let a man with a bone in his nose wearing a loin cloth rant about how weird Christians are and God whispered, “Hello! You just let a man in loin cloth call you weird. Call ME weird. What’s wrong with that picture?”
I allowed myself to be driven in the closet because as atheists have told me a thousand times, you shouldn’t be seen by men. Don’t be a hypocrite. Faith is a private matter. Go in your closet and pray. And turn off your praise music, too. And God whispered, “Is there some reason why you are allowing atheists to dictate scripture to you?”
A woman once tried to pay me a compliment by saying, “I’m so glad you’re one of those benign Christians.” Benign, as in a non invasive, non threatening tumor. A pointless clump of cells, really. And God said, “why are claiming my name and acting benign?”
It all came to a head while standing in a garden between three women I knew, an atheist, a Muslim, and a witch, I kid you not, standing silently, grimly, while my Lord and Savior was mocked, ridiculed, trying to figure out how to make my exit but not daring to challenge the three of them. It was a like a really bad after school special, because the heavens opened up and Jesus Christ just thundered down, “Deny me before men and I’ll deny you before my Father!”
It wasn’t compassionate or gentle at all, in fact I hit the ground immediately and looked up thinking the other women must have heard it too, and yet they did not. It all came flooding back to me in that very moment, every time I had remained silent when I should have spoken up, every time I had called people to compassion and mercy rather than confrontation. I still didn’t walk away from those women, nor did I even say a word, but they all turned and walked away from me in disgust.
I have since learned, there is a time to fight, a time to be provocative, a time to mock and ridicule, and a time to provoke some winnowing. Nowhere in the bible are we called to just sit back and swallow endless chaff.
One thing I have learned from being on the internet, even in the midst of battle with other Christians, even in the face of harsh words and great accusations, at the root and core of all those arguments is the essence of the whole war. We are actually arguing with one another about how best to love other people. From grace to legalism, from Calvanism, to wit whimsy, and woo, the heart of our battles all revolve around a great moral concern over how we go about the business of loving people properly, in a way that more accurately reflects both the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ and the rebuke and offense of the cross.
Now that alone is a miracle. That is a faith worth standing up for.