Alex Crain

Editor, Christianity.com

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“While we certainly must turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love our enemies when faced with personal offenses (Matt. 5:38-48), we must not assume that defending ourselves—strenuously and sometimes even defiantly—before the governing authorities is inconsistent with being a follower of Jesus or antithetical to the propagation of the gospel.”
– Kevin DeYoung, “Is It Wrong for Christians to Defend Their Rights?

“The times, they are a changing,” Bob Dylan sang nearly 50 years ago. But where the times have ended up is that pastors in Houston are now being subpoenaed to surrender their sermons to the mayor’s office and wedding chapels are forced to conduct same-sex services under legal threat.

In light of the changing times, Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition calls upon Christians to embrace the Apostle Paul’s approach to using the courts in his day to demonstrate and defend the social good of following Christ. Regardless of whether our defense effectively prevails, we should seize every opportunity to proclaim the gospel.

Based in the book of Acts, here are 4 points about Paul’s defense that DeYoung calls us to consider (summaries & quotes included after each point):

1. Paul had reason to give a defense. Much of the opposition to Paul was due to slander and misinformation. People were ready to believe the worst about Paul (or ready to make up the worst about him). Paul saw no problem with taking advantage of opportunities to clear up wrong ideas held by others.

2. Paul was eager to give a defense. – While it’s true that no one should, or even can, defend himself against every opponent, every injustice, or every hurt, “every” is not the same as none.

3. Paul’s defense was often ineffective. Yes, he had truth on his side, but truth doesn’t always win out in a court of law, let alone in mob rule. This should be acknowledged in advance.

4. Paul used his defense as an opportunity to preach Christ. Time after time, when put on trial, Paul found a way to talk about the resurrection of Christ, about faith and repentance.

Finally, consider this noteworthy quote from Kevin DeYoung’s article:

Paul was willing for his life to be cut short if the work of the gospel could go on. But so long as the gospel itself was maligned, misrepresented, and unfairly marginalized, he wasn’t about to submit himself to slander or surrender a single civic right. He would keep preaching the Christian gospel. He would keep on defending the religious and legal legitimacy of the Christian faith. And he would not believe for a moment that the two tasks were aimed at different ends.

Related to this topic, pastor Eric Redmond addresses the timely question on the minds of many in this short video: "Should Christians be invovled in politics?"

Your turn: Are you and your church prepared to defend your rights as a way to proclaim the gospel? Join the discussion in the comments below.


Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

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“Because life can be tragic for women, it is crucial to have a biblical
understanding of how the church can protect and care for women at risk.”

– Lindsey Holcomb, The Church and Women at Risk

Too often, churches don’t realize the great opportunity they have before them to offer victims of violence the care and counsel they desperately need.

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Lindsey Holcomb provides clear, biblical rationale for welcoming the exploited in her brief article “The Church and Women at Risk." In it, she describes 7 practical ways that Christians can reflect Jesus’s heart for those who are oppressed and abused. (Read all 7 of them at the full article here.)

Here are the first 4:

1. Stand with the vulnerable and powerless. Don’t enable or grant a pass to those who use their power to exploit others (Jer. 22:3).

2. Believe the women; don’t blame them. Being believed and listened to by others are crucial to victims’ healing.

3. Respond graciously, offering comfort, encouragement, and protection. Also respond with tangible, practical care.

4. Get informed and inform others about the prevalence of women at risk. They can be found right under our noses. The prevalence is staggering.

(Read all 7 ways to reflect Jesus's heart for women at risk in Lindsey's full article
here at The Gospel Coalition.)

Lindsey notes that many victims will reach out to churches in times of need, but the kind of un-Christ-like treatment they receive often only compounds their suffering:  blame, disbelief, suspicious questions, empty platitudes—none of these reflect the heart of Jesus.

How can you help prepare your church to be a safe community that shows the transforming power of the gospel? An excellent resource for further reading and help is the excellent book Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence (Moody, 2014) written by Lindsey, along with her husband, Justin Holcomb. Another great place to start is to watch Justin in this brief video answering the question: “What is sexual assault and how can victims find hope and healing?”

Your turn: Are you and your church prepared to reflect Jesus’s heart for women at risk? Join the discussion in the comments below.


Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

conflict_man_woman

“Sarcasm can wound the person you love, tear down good communication
between the two of you, and can inflict long-term damage to your relationship.”
– Doug Fields, Sarcasm Could Be Ruining Your Relationship

If you and your fiancé or spouse are both Christians who realize that sin and selfishness are the root causes of relational difficulty, then Doug Fields practical article on managing sarcasm may help you. Otherwise, it treats the wound of relational hardship lightly.

Here are Fields’ 3 ways to dial back the damage your smart mouthing can render:

1)      Don’t Say Everything You Think

2)      Keep Your Body Language in Check

3)      Schedule a Weekly Summit

I’ve been married for 19 years, which may deepen my perspective, but 19 years of marriage doesn’t make me the authority. I happen to know that there are lots of Christians in bad relationships—many of them in my own church. They are reading articles like Doug Fields’ that are filled with self-help tips but such articles never lead them to real life change since a self-help perspective pretty much eviscerates Scripture and the Holy Spirit from the discussion. (Both are noticeably absent from the "Relevant" article.)

Compare Fields’ self-help article with the ever-relevant, biblical counsel from a counselor like Paul Tripp:

I don't think we have taken the Bible seriously in understanding what it means when a sinner marries a sinner.  Second Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus came so that those who live would no longer live for themselves. 

Here is what this means:  The DNA of sin is selfishness.  That means that sin in its fundamental form is antisocial because I care more about me than I do anyone else.  I shrink my world down to my wants, my needs, and my feelings.  That means that I will reduce the people in my life to vehicles or obstacles.  If you help me get what I want, I love you cards and flowers.  If you stand in the way of what I want, I am spontaneously irritated and angry.

Now, think about it.  Who has that conversation with couples going into marriage?  We talk a little bit about sex, a little bit about finances, a little bit about roles, a little bit about communication, but those aren't the cause of our problems.  Those are the locations of the problems.  The cause is this selfishness.

I believe this one tiny dose of biblical sanity could rescue struggling marriages everywhere. I don’t have to imagine it, actually. It was the dawning light that began the long process of saving and strengthening my own marriage 15 years ago. That was when I finally came to learn that self-help is no help. Only biblical truth applied in the power of the Holy Spirit can change a life from the inside out.

Your turn: Join the discussion in the comments below.

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

"Help, I Married the Wrong Person!"

couple_unhappy

“The belief that we have married the wrong person is far more sinister
than we are led to believe. A long-term view of marriage (and life for that matter), saves us from the propensity to bolt when it gets hard or is less than we expected.”

— Courtney Reissig, Help, I Married the Wrong Person

According to Scripture, Christians should never marry non-Christians. First Corinthians 7:39 is clear that we are “…free to be married to whom [we] wish, only in the Lord.”

But even in Christian marriages, there are times when one might be tempted to think that he or she has married the wrong person. Courtney Reissig speaks wisdom into this topic in her recent article at The Gospel Coalition: Help, I Married the Wrong Person.

The temptation to buy into the popular notion promoted widely by online dating services is very real. The dream of a perfectly compatible “soul mate” can lead some to doubt the vows they have made to their (now that the honeymoon is over) very incompatible spouses. But Reissig points to a sober, biblical view…

“People are only people. They cannot meet the deepest needs of our souls, even if their words, actions, and Facebook profiles tell us otherwise.”

“…the purpose of marriage is to make you holy, not happy. Of course, a side benefit of marriage is companionship, shared experiences, and—many times—true happiness. But that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make us like Jesus. We don’t get to the final day on our own. Marriage is one of God’s good means to sanctify us and bring us safely home.”

Some time ago, I interviewed biblical counselor, David Powlison, about this topic. In this brief video (What if I Feel Like I Married the Wrong Person?), he offers a number of wise points to consider, especially regarding cases where there has been criminal abuse or adulteryvery serious issues not covered by Reissig’s short post. Watch it and share your thoughts in the comments below.
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com

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