THREE ON THURSDAY
Today’s topic is on the way we speak of others — including our brothers and sisters in Christ who have different theological views than us. Here are links to three articles on this topic:
They Aren’t Heretics Because You Disagree with Them by Jared C. Wilson
“Have you ever seen someone say online or heard someone say in person, ‘She’s a false teacher,’ or ‘He’s a heretic?’ . . . It all boils down to this: unless and until someone actually teaches something heretical, we shouldn’t call them a heretic. In other words, someone’s not a false teacher just because you disagree with or don’t like what they teach. Someone is a false teacher if they deny a first-order doctrine [things like the Trinity, the Incarnation, justification by faith, etc.] or promote any teaching that would compromise a first-order doctrine.”
For Jesus’s Sake, Be Kind by Trevin Wax
“On the one hand, some believe kindness should not be granted unless the recipient proves deserving. Only the worthy should receive it. On the other hand, some believe kindness is owed to everyone in the form of politeness and civility, as an act of patriotic grace to our fellow citizens. The Christian view of kindness is different. We are to show kindness even to people who may be deemed “unworthy” of receiving it, but this kindness cannot be reduced to a spirit of civility . . . Kindness requires intentional action.”
20 Times Jesus Spoke Directly to a Woman . . . And He Never Once Said, “Go Home!” by Teri Lynne Underwood
“The world is going to come after us, hate us! But we cannot continue to be guilty of hating one another, of murdering the witness of Christ in us! It matters how we speak to and about each other. It matters in our homes. It matters in our social media posts. It matters in our workplaces. It matters in our pulpits. It matters in our conversations. It matters at our conventions. It matters on our videos. And it matters in our hearts!”
BECAUSE KINDNESS MATTERS
This past weekend, a prominent senior pastor in Southern California told an audience that a popular female Bible teacher should “Go home!”
Three men sat on a large stage and decided to play a word association game where the pastor was supposed to say — in one or two words — what came to mind. At the mention of her name, “Go home!” was his immediate and derisive response.
Twitter blew up. Followed by a flurry of Facebook and Instagram posts. Some were hopping mad. Others were openly glad.
Me? I was mostly sad.
It’s one thing to respectfully disagree with a fellow believer on certain matters of doctrine; it’s another thing to publicly use a fellow believer as a punching bag for a bad joke.
I understand that genuine believers in Christ are in different camps on the issue of whether or not a woman can teach the Bible to a mixed audience of both women and men. I have literally spent the past decade studying this issue from all sides, and I have some strong beliefs about the topic.
But this isn’t about complementarianism or egalitarianism. This is about being gentle in heart and kind in spirit. This is about treating people, even those who hold different beliefs, with warmth and goodwill.
Knowing the Essential from the Nonessential
For those of us who hold to the Christian faith, there are essential and nonessential theological issues.
What is essential to salvation in Christ?
Believing Jesus is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, born to virgin, both fully God and fully man, who lived a sinless life, then gave his life on a cross as a ransom for our sins, and rose from the grave on the third day.
When we surrender our lives to King Jesus, we become a part of his family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We may not always agree on every theological issue, but we are still a part of the same family of God. And the Bible is clear that we are to speak the truth in love. Our words should build up, not tear down (Ephesians 4:15, 29 ESV).
Yes, we will disagree on things. Even important things. But it’s also important that we keep the essential things distinct from the nonessential things. This why I appreciate the well-articulated stance Jared C. Wilson takes in his article on the different orders of doctrine (which, incidentally, was published three weeks before this most recent furor took place).
A Spring of Sweet Waters
In James 3:11, the brother of Jesus writes, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?” (ESV). In other words, sweet and bitter water cannot come from the same spring. It’s impossible. And yet, that’s exactly what we do with our words sometimes. “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing,” James says (3:10 ESV). We are sinful people who are still in the process of being sanctified, and our words reflect who we are at our core.
My grandma used to say:
“People are like teabags; you find out what’s inside when they’re dropped in hot water.”
What’s inside us will come out. Eventually. Lord, help us!
I don’t want to be the kind of person who spews bitter words. Sure, I’ve had moments when I said something I wished I could take back. Every one of those instances has required that I apologize and take responsibility for my words.
When a believer speaks a harsh word, it’s incumbent upon us all that we repent and do what we can to make amends.
Jesus said a tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV). In the same way, we are known by the fruit in our lives. Our words and deeds are our fruit. Is the fruit in my life sweet and nourishing? Or bitter and rotten? Do my words edify and uplift? Or berate and tear down?
One of my favorite proverbs says:
“Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4 NLT).
My heart’s desire for us as believers is that we each become a spring of sweet waters and deep waters. May we become, by God’s grace, the kind of Christians who speak the truth with grace. Because kindness matters.
*Part of this post is an excerpt from Word Writers: James, pp.73-74.