“Christians have forgotten how to be bold!” That’s how the conversation usually begins when the speaker is operating under the belief that we as Christians have become too soft, too permissive and too unwilling to stand up for what we believe in.
There are times that overhearing a conversation between Christians or reading a blog post written by a Christian truly makes me cringe. One of the most cringe-worthy topics I hear Christians talking about is the notion that churchgoers should “be bold” and not worry about offending people they’re trying to reach.
These people, most of whom I”m convinced actually mean well but can’t seem to see how ridiculous they come off sounding, have a favorite scene featuring Jesus Christ: that moment in Matthew that He overturns the tables in the temple disrupting, quite dramatically, the merchants who’d turned God’s House into a marketplace.
In popular culture, one of their favorite images is that of Mel Gibson in Braveheart, the warrior who, like their Christian ideal, should be willing to die for every ounce of what he believes in.
Despite the fact that they only use words like thee and thou when they’re quoting from the Bible, some seem to believe that anything short of the King James Version of the Bible is a sign of a “weak” Christian. Reading from The Message? Don’t let them see you: they may pray for a lightning bolt!
These folks are serious about flexing their personal God muscles.
My primary Bible is the New Living Translation. But thanks to the internet, I have virtually every version readily at my fingertips to clarify the meaning when one version or another seems to express something that doesn’t add up. And while I’m on the subject of admitting how much I’d fail, on paper, in the eyes of such overly-aggressive people, I might as well add that I belong to a nondenominational church that uses contemporary music. Nope, there’s not a pipe organ to be found in the place.
But quite frankly, they wouldn’t find a traditional, old-school pastor who knows the Bible and preaches it more honestly than my pastor, or one more dedicated to helping people build a genuine, God-honoring, Christ-following, life-changing Christian walk, even though he doesn’t wear a tie when he preaches.
The problem with those Christians isn’t their dedication to God. It’s their approach.
Those who embrace the “Be Bold” movement seem to want to offend those around them who they judge as failing to measure up to what God wants them to be.
Think about it for a moment: let’s say you make a mistake and someone notices. To which of the following responses would you be more receptive: the stranger who comes up to you and starts screaming at you, telling you what a “fool” you are and how condemned you are to a life of mistakes and hardships, or the friend who taps you on the shoulder, asks if you have a moment, and then pulls you aside into a calm, quiet, respectful conversation about the situation and what you might do differently next time?
Unless you’re a masochist, you likely chose the latter.
Because the person who’s already a friend of yours has already built a relationship with you, already realizes that you aren’t perfect and cares enough to want to help you grow.
The person more focused on “being bold” and “offending” you into snapping to is too lazy to have bothered to get to know who you are, how you tick, or what you’ve been through that got you to the failure that they are only to eager to jump on! All they want to do is shout to the rooftops about other people’s failures. They miss the whole point of compassion, which is a critical part of the Christian equation.
A God who was willing to bring His Son to earth as a man, then sacrifice Him to pay for all of the sins for generations who had yet to be born and who promises salvation that none of us can ever truly “deserve” is all about compassion. Ditto about the Son Himself who was willing to go through such torture and pain in the hopes that the rest of us would accept that gift.
Without compassion, you’re just making noise.
Think of that church out of Kansas that pickets funerals of soldiers and notable people, claiming that their deaths were the result of various sins, including homosexuality, and the nation’s apparent “acceptance” of those sins.
You have to give them one thing: they’re bold.
Is anyone who is mourning a loved one’s death really going to stop long enough to sincerely listen to their message? Is anyone who sees them in full protest mode who doesn’t have a connection to the dearly departed really going to stop what they’re doing and see much else beyond disdain at the inappropriate time and place at which they’re making their voices heard?
The crowd that caught the adulteress in the act was bold. It wanted to put her to death at once just to show off their own moral superiority to Christ. Christ returned their boldness by shaming them for their sins and forgiving the woman for her transgressions.
The disciples chastised Mary of Bethany when she poured the perfume from the alabaster jar over Christ’s head. They boldly argued that the perfume was of great value and could have been sold to raise money to help the poor, a perfectly noble goal. Christ returned their boldness by pointing out the error of their ways and promising the woman that for as long as Christ’s story is told, her act of kindness would be told along with it.
Christ’s propensity to spend time with sinners, rather than shouting at them from a safe distance ought to make Christians rethink the “be bold and offend” strategy.
And those who still doggedly cling to the scene of those tables being overturned might do well to realize that Christ had an inerrant ability they don’t have: to look into the heart of the person at the receiving end.
Christians need to always be considering their audience. It’s not what they say but rather how they say it that will determine whether the recipient actually listens, or writes off the comments as coming from anywhere other than a person whose Savior instructed him to love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s perfectly possible to express an absolute Biblical fact in such a mean-spirited, hateful way that it loses its power as a Biblical truth.
I can’t imagine God would be okay with that.