Entries for November 2012

While some people are critical of social networking (and the Internet in general) as being a time-waster and a dangerous source of filth and misinformation, I'm a fan. Unlike mainstream media, it's a form of communication that we can turn to our advantage.

I wouldn't be blogging if I didn't think so, but I do acknowledge the truth of what the critics say. As with any good thing, moderation and discipline are advised. I want to add another misuse to the list: Social media such as Facebook and Twitter give occasion for people to spout off in ways they probably would not in polite company.

I can't count the number of times I've cringed at the response of someone who claims to be a Christian because what he or she has said was disrespectful or hateful. Mom was right: We should think before we post.

And we should apply Paul's words to Timothy about communication with or about opponents:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 24-26)

I apply these words this way:

  • The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I don't think this means we shouldn't respond, but we mustn't be argumentative. Any reply should be for the reader's benefit and not for me to "score points."
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be kind to all . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I take this to mean there ought not be any name-calling, verbal abuse, or harshness.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be able to teach . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Teaching is something other than the clever jab or sound byte. It requires time and patience. More on this below.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be patient when wronged . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Oh, it's so tempting to retaliate when the other side calls us a name or is harsh and abusive about an idea or person we admire -- abundant evidence of that online -- but their behavior doesn't excuse our responding in kind. "Love keeps no record of wrongs." We also don't have to rebut every charge made against our side.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must with gentleness correct those who are in opposition . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. If repentance is the goal-- and it always is -- then gentleness is the key for dealing with opponents.

It's tempting to say nothing when we can't think of something nice to say, but the unborn can't afford our silence. I'd like to take this opportunity to challenge all of us to become an army of patient persuaders as described by Paul. If we can't learn to articulate our beliefs in ways that appeal to others, then can we at least point them to resources that can be counted on to not bash them over the head? Here are a couple good ones:

Stand to Reason - basic Christian apologetics 
Life Training Institute - pro-life apologetics (see The Case for Life companion site)

One last thought: Our opponents are not exempt from kind treatment because they advocate the killing of innocent unborn human babies. At the time of writing 2 Timothy, Paul was in prison awaiting execution by Nero. He didn't allow fear or hatred to deter him from attempting to persuade guards and soldiers -- who had participated in the deaths of other Christians -- to accept Christ as Savior. He took great delight in the Gospel going forth, even though others might do so out of spite (Phil. 1:12-17). And, while he acknowledged the harm some Christians had done to him, he prayed God wouldn't hold it against them (2 Tim. 4:16). That's something to remember the next time we're attacked.

Related: 
Should pro-lifers verbally "bash" anyone? (on Facebook)
Monday musing for October 5: Love the enemy
Monday musing for September 17: Christians in an age of aggression

Postscript: The reason we often lack graceful speech is we fail to rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in Luke 12:11-12, "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Thus it might be advantageous to learn to cite Scripture and not certain radio talk show hosts who may or may not always speak from a biblical point of view.

We're all familiar with -- and intimidated by -- the model woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31, but have you ever heard a sermon or read an article about the man in the first 9 verses?

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings.

It is not for kings, Lemuel—it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, 
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Scholars note this king is unknown in the annals of biblical history and agree Lemuel may be a euphemism for Solomon. The name means "to God," as in "belonging to God." If the "Proverbs 31 woman" is God's ideal for womanhood, then verses 1-9 could be said to describe the ideal leader -- the one owned by God.

A likely reason we don't hear much about this passage is its dangerous reference to strong drink, as though drunkenness is allowed the common man if not the king. Plenty of passages -- including Prov. 20:1 and 23:19-21 -- clear up any misconception. (See also Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13, 1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:18.) Basically, good leaders are those who don't indulge themselves, or let their pleasures overcome good judgment. Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 serves as a parallel:

Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness.

Note also that the "Proverbs 31 Man" does not indulge himself with women -- leading to unwise alliances, fatherless children, and broken relationships. Dalliances sap strength AND, in our society, lead to abortions. The wise man exercises self-control in this area of life as well.

The point of sober leadership is the just use of power. The good leader doesn't allow his friends to ply him with anything -- wine, women, wealth -- to the neglect of justice.

In a crowded throne room (or courtroom) a king could be dazzled by the pomp, ceremony, and influence of powerful advisers. He could overlook the poor man in ragged clothing standing at the end of the line, or forget the wretches outside who never gain entrance because they're too ashamed, or disabled, or must work all day to survive. After all, they're not the king's party pals.

In all the competing interests, the king must keep the "little people" and their concerns in mind. The wealthy, the powerful, the beautiful have their own voices. But who speaks up for the little ones, the "non-persons" who have no voice?

Not only should the godly leader avoid perverting justice by condemning the innocent (Exodus 23:1-9, Dt. 16:18-20), but he should also be their advocate. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. . . . Speak up!" Men who defend the weak and helpless imitate the character of God: Psalm 10:17-18, 82:3-4, 146:9; Proverbs 10:29, 31:9; Isaiah 1:17, 25:4; Jeremiah 5:28, 16:19; 2 Samuel 22:33.

What if we don't have leaders like that? What if they're under the influence of Planned Parenthood? What if they not only disregard the unborn, but advocate on behalf of their enemies?

It falls to us to do the speaking up -- petitioning to and about our leaders. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks should be made to God for kings and all who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). And, while the parable in Luke 18:1-8 is about demonstrating faith through persistent prayer, it also shows the propriety of petitioning "unjust judges." Through our diligence, perhaps one day they'll do the good they're reluctant to do, despite their prejudices. (Note that the parable also diagnoses the root of injustice -- no fear of God or respect for the sanctity of human life.)

Men -- whether they're leaders in government or at home -- must speak up about abortion. Despite what feminist's say, men shouldn't be silenced because they lack female reproductive equipment or the experience of bearing children. Many women have abortions because their men are either coercive or weak. Since all human life in the womb is valuable to God -- male and female -- male voices are crucial to the pro-life movement. Abortion is not just a "woman's issue."

Related post-election reading:

I still remember the moment I excitedly realized I could obey a difficult passage of Scripture. The sun was in my eyes as I headed east after leaving the bagel place where I'd studied Luke 6:27-36. It may have been this same time of year, with a 40 Days for Life campaign going on. Whatever it was that made me put two thoughts together -- loving my enemies and praying at the abortion clinic -- I felt joyful as I anticipated loving the local abortionist by praying for him!

Before this, the concept of having an enemy had been rather vague. None of mine seemed to have a name or a face. They existed in the abstract -- Fear, Anxiety, Forces of Darkness in High Places ... entities like that. Whenever I came across references to foes in the Psalms, I spiritualized them. In general, I didn't really want to identify someone as my enemy because that would mean -- in the world's scheme of things -- having to battle or confront him or her in some way.

Thankfully, what I am actually called by Christ to do is love, do good to, bless, and pray for those who "despitefully use" me. Or despitefully use the unborn.

As previously noted, righteous indignation is too thin a motivation for being pro-life anyway. It simply doesn't get at the core problem or bring about lasting change. The reason is, it doesn't reflect the totality of Christ's character the way loving ones enemies does.

Over at Churches for Life, Rev. Douglas W. Merkey writes that there are many possible motives for being pro-life. "Some ... are driven by an imbalanced affection for God’s law and an overblown sense of their own piety. Some ... are driven by unresolved guilt, perhaps fueled by their own abortion experience. Some ... are driven by a hope for human approval, or insecurity. Still others ... are driven by a craving for political, social, or moral enlightenment." He urges champions of life to be "gospel-driven." (See a longer treatment of this idea here.)

When I read the article my mind went to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13a where Paul corrects a misperception: 

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.

We're to hold "insiders" to God's high standard but, rather than being constantly alarmed or surprised by what "enemies" do, we're to treat them with godly pity. "Such were some of you."

So, while I might identify someone as an enemy of life, my treatment of him or her is modified by what God requires of me in terms of reflecting His mercy. I have to recognize this person is incapable of living a new life, never having forsaken the old (Col. 3:1-14). He lacks the advantage of an indwelling Holy Spirit.

Thanks to the Gospel, enemies become friends. Carol Everett is one such trophy, among many. Hatred and vilification could not do what the Holy Spirit, prayer, and persistent pro-life witness did by God's grace.

A new pro-life organization is devoted to bringing abortion doctors and workers out. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood executive, has started And Then There Were None, whose goal it is "to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry."

Do you know the name of an abortionist? Would you pray for one today? Here's a list of over 700 in the U.S. Find the one nearest you.

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