Because I spend a lot of time in this weird and wonderful corner of the Internet known as the Christian blogosphere, I often think about how I can best contribute to it in a way that honors Jesus and is beneficial to God’s people. So over the last few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of putting those thoughts down early in the new year—things I’d like to challenge myself, other bloggers, and Christians in general with as we seek to grow and change as we represent Jesus on the Interwebs.
So let’s talk about that, for a minute: representing Jesus. I think we’re all agreed (at least I hope we are) that this is the primary duty of every person who says they’re a Christian. We’re to live our lives, with God’s help and through his power, in a way that shows the world what it means to worship Christ—to love God and our neighbors and really mean it. Admittedly, I kind of stink at this a lot of the time (or at least I think I do). Most of this has to do with this nasty problem of mine called pride.
Maybe a little background is helpful. See, my wife and I rarely fight about anything of consequence. We don’t fight about money, or what to teach the kids, or any of that stuff. We fight about the details of old TV shows, random details of life, the reasons the CN Tower tickets aren’t printing, and other assorted nonsense. So, we’ve gotten into the habit of saying things like, “Hey, let’s keep fighting about this since it’s really important,” to clue us in that we’re being kind of dumb. And by we, of course, I mean me. Because, pride.
Biting, devouring and being a dummy
I remember when I first started developing doctrinal convictions—around the same time I started a blog, incidentally—and how my pride problem was exacerbated. I had ideas about how things should be, and I was certain everything I believed was biblical and clearly in the text… but I had a problem: when I opened my mouth, my words were about as loving as hitting someone in the face with a sledge hammer. I didn’t know how to hear other points of view, and frankly, didn’t care that much. I wasn’t a good listener because I didn’t think I really needed to listen to anyone I disagreed with.
The problem, of course, is this was just me being a prideful idiot. I was excited about what I believed, but pride was getting in the way. Because I was prideful, I was too blind to see where other points of view had merit, or even when I was right in what I saw, didn’t know how to be discerning and graceful. I had a lot in common with those Paul warned about in Galatians 5:15, those who were so busy biting and devouring one another that they consumed one another.
Maybe you can relate.
Discernment doesn’t lack love
These days, I try to take a more balanced approach. My wife evens I’ve grown as a person (hurray!). I don’t listen to or read people who, honestly, fed those unhealthy and ungodly tendencies that exist within me. I’ve seen God start to sand off some of the rougher edges as I’ve been maturing (though admittedly, there’s a long way to go). And I’ve been slowly learning how to actually be discerning without being a dork.
Discernment, at its most basic level, is the ability to judge well. To, with reasonable accuracy, perceive the direction of certain lines of thought, or to assess the character of an individual. It is a gift, true, but also a discipline—one that is developed over a long period of time. Therefore all Christians are required to be discerning of what they read, teach and are taught, and even with whom they associate.1
But something we should note about discernment, about judging well and perceiving clearly, is it requires us to be thoughtful. That is, it’s not a discipline to be treated as a blunt instrument or a weapon, hammering those with whom we disagree into oblivion. Worse, it’s not be used to twist the truth to fit our preconceived judgments or personal biases against individuals.
In other words, discernment is to be expression of love, both for individuals and for the Lord. Strangely, the opposite is what I’ve seen time and again in too many examples to link to (which I wouldn’t do anyway, because I don’t want to give them airtime). And that’s not okay.
Your name should not be a verb
Now, obviously, I’m not against calling out nonsense. To play like everything is hunky dory when people are running around trying to convince us that private jets are legit ministry needs, coloring books featuring pastors are a good idea, that we need something other than the Bible to know the will of God, and other such goofiness is not okay. And sometimes it’s even right to name names. I’ve been very open about ideas that are dangerous and/or stupid in the past, and even about the individuals who promulgate said ideas, and undoubtedly will continue to do so.
But if this is what we’re known for, we’ve got a problem. For example, there’s a blogger out there whose last name has become a verb thanks to his efforts to bring clarity around some seriously shady issues at a really big church a couple years back. People paid attention, and that church is gone now. That says something; and I’m not sure it’s entirely a good thing.
What we need to be mindful of is that there are real people who are affected by what we say and do. And although we are not to be people pleasers, we don’t get to run around using Galatians 5:12 as a cover for ungodliness.2 We can be unflinching in our positions, we can even use strong language when necessary, but for goodness’ sake, even this should be done with tears. We should weep as we speak painful truths. Our desire should be that people come to repentance; that those who’ve gone astray should return to the truth.
But viciousness, divisiveness, biting and devouring one another… this isn’t the way we’re to do things. It doesn’t honor Christ. It doesn’t represent him. But it does drive people further away from him.