“I wanna start a fight, so, so what?” I’ve felt that urge before and opened up my twitter app. And that’s why I deleted my twitter account. If your right arm offends you, right? Not that every Christian should do like me. But, “pics or it didn’t happen?” Be careful. Why not “too precious for Facebook?”
But the fight thing: that’s the issue. Christians taking to Twitter to vent; or scrolling through the Facebook feed to comment on hot topics. Some feel the urge to engage. Others are reluctant. Then there are those who tell us we must engage or we’re not fulfilling our gospel responsibility. We’re contributing to the error if we don’t correct it. We’re letting truth fall to the ground if we don’t say something.
Of course we must speak the truth – advance the gospel. At the same time, sometimes being a credible witness for Christ means not mixing it up. Paul said, “Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Tim. 2:23). It’s also true that “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:19). Grab that German Shepherd if you want to, but God says it’s not wise.
So how do we know when to comment and when to move on? How do we know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em? And when to play ‘em for that matter? Here are a few principles.
1) Ignore the atheist or contrarian who simply loves to contradict (Prov. 26:4).
2) Don’t get into someone else’s fight (Prov. 26:19).
3) Avoid all foolish disputes (2 Tim. 2:23).
4) Don’t be argumentative (Prov. 26:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:24).
5) Don’t let your emotions drive you to comment when you shouldn’t (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
6) Realize that you’re likely to be misunderstood for a host of reasons, not the least of which is that readers can’t see your body language or hear your intonations (1 Cor. 2:14; Prov. 26:4; Col. 4:5-6).
7) Know that you’re not obligated to answer every person or every comment (Rom. 15:19-20).
8) Set aside God in your heart before you speak (1 Pet. 3:15).
9) Pick your moments; be wise and judicious as to when you speak and what you say (Col. 4:5-6).
10) When you do comment, don’t offer opinion, but root your words in Scripture (Rom. 1:16; 1 Thess. 2:13). In other words, cast down arguments with biblical truth (Prov. 26:5; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:15).
11) Warn those who stubbornly refuse to listen and move on (Matt. 10:14; Acts 13:46).
12) Don’t be ugly, but build up (Eph. 4:29).
It’s not about starting a fight.
This past Friday on our radio broadcast we were talking about Trump’s popularity along with Sarah Palin endorsing him. The tea party is livid over that endorsement wondering what in the world has happened to conservatives and conservative principles. Palin, like so many others, has sold them out, they say.
We simply reiterated the point we’ve been making for years that most so-called conservatives are not really conservative. Like most people, they vote for the candidate who says what they want to hear. That’s called populism. They have no real principled commitment to conservativism because they have no real coherent or comprehensive public policy worldview. Sadly, most Christians fall into this same category.
Our point was that Christians should be different. They shouldn’t simply vote for things they like. It’s selfish at the very least; oppressive in reality; and downright unbiblical in most cases. We need a biblical view of government and public policy. It’s called liberty.
It’s interesting that others are talking about the same thing. Of particular note, a Christian conservative commentator picked up on this theme in his morning show. He lamented long and hard that conservatives weren’t conservative and populism had gained a foot hold in the Republican Party. What to do, what to do? “We need to call Christians back to conservatism,” he declared.
He then cited W. as one of those conservatives. Yeah, big spending George Bush – that W. But that didn’t get a mention. Strangely however, this did: “He allocated thirty-three million dollars for abstinence education.” This is his example of W’s conservativism.
But this example is really a shining illustration of exactly what we were talking about on our show. Allocating money for abstinence education is not conservative – it’s as liberal as it gets. This commentator is not Christian or conservative on that point. W. is a populist on that point and this Christian conservative is voting for what he wants – not principled public policy. In other words, he’s for abstinence and therefore he’s for government (tax-payers) funding abstinence education. But conservatism says it’s not the role of government to fund abstinence education or any other kind of education. Conservativism is against that kind of tax and spend policy. Taxing people for what you want is contemporary liberalism. It’s big government. It’s tyranny. And this man’s proving my point that Democrats and Republicans are all for big government despite what Republicans say. Both use government – just for different spending programs. That’s called hypocrisy. And Jesus had a lot to say about that – none of it good. So this Christian conservative, like most, is really a populist.
It’s bad form to go ballistic over Palin or Trump followers when you’re just like them. Just saying.
There are some litmus-test issues for Christians. One is abortion. A believer can’t support a candidate who’s pro-baby-killing. It’s not over-the-top to call it murder, cruel, and barbaric. Moreover, you don’t really believe in liberty and justice for all if a segment of society can be legally murdered. You believe in allowing some to aggress against others without consequences. You don’t have a Christian worldview but a relativistic one: might makes right; majority rules; the strong survive.
If abortion is a litmus-test issue, it is such because of life and liberty. These are unalienable rights granted by God, not government. What right do I have to take someone else’s life? Or someone else mine? These rights also make civil society possible. Civil society can only be such if it has as its foundation the Christian principle of non-aggression. No one has the right to aggress against me, even as I have no right to aggress against others. This principle is present in biblical commands against theft, rape, or murder to name a few. It’s present in the Golden Rule.
For Christians, if abortion is a litmus-test issue because of life and liberty, then wars of aggression must be a litmus-test issue as well. The principles are the same. Just war and self-defense are very different dynamics than the kind of indiscriminate destruction the US Government is wreaking in the Middle East. To be pro-life means – just that – to be pro-life.
Here’s a quote for you:
Look at the war in Iraq. . . I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!
Donald Trump said that. But here’s the thing: he said it back in 2004. And he’s saying the same thing today.
We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems, our airports, and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. . .We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have (been) wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.
Now, I’m not saying vote for Trump. There are reasons many Christians won’t. But are they litmus-test reasons? Ted Cruz didn’t make the above statements. Marco Rubio certainly didn’t. Not even Gentle Ben made them. So, here’s the question: if you won’t vote for Trump because of some issue that may not be a litmus-test, and if you’re pro-life, why would you vote for Cruz, or Rubio, or Carson, or any of the other warmongers?
All married couples want to be happy. The world is quick to offer suggestions related to buying things, taking trips, or spicing things up – all good in proper perspective. Yet, those things won’t help without some other things taking place first. Let’s say a couple is having trouble; they decide to take a cruise to fix things. There’s just one problem: they bring themselves along – with all of their self-focus and unresolved issues. They haven’t done anything to fix their problems; they’ve only moved them to a more scenic location. So what has to happen first for a happier marriage, every day?
Talk About the Things of God Together
True happiness comes from knowing God more over time (Phil. 3:1-15). That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to take in His word every day. You can’t know God if you don’t know what He says about Himself and His ways. And think about it; while personal devotion is important, what better way to grow closer to your spouse than to grow closer to God together? Keep a daily appointment with each other and go through bible passages or books; devotional material; Christian articles; or bible studies. You can talk about theology; worldview; and how to think biblically about what’s going on. You’ll know God and each other better and find more joy in Him and each other. Whether a formal devotion or casual conversation, there is simply no substitute for bible intake to foster like-mindedness and happiness together (Phil. 2-4).
Examine Your Own Heart
Growth in Christ and growing closer to your spouse are no mere academic matters. You have to know God’s word, but you also have to apply it to your sinful heart. You have to replace your sinful thoughts and actions with godliness. The only way to do that is to renew your mind with God’s word. This three-fold dynamic is repeated in different ways throughout the New Testament (e.g. Eph. 4:22-24). The truth is that all of us are mostly focused on ourselves and what we want. We want our spouses to please us, and so often we like them for selfish reasons. But that’s not true love nor is it Christ-like. In order to love God, and indeed your spouse more, you’re going to have to fight sin in your heart. And think about this: you don’t even know the sin that’s in your heart until you examine it through Scripture (Heb. 4:12). No one likes exploratory surgery, especially when it’s related to the heart. But neither can you live without it. Deal with your heart every day and your marriage will be happier.
Resolve Conflict Quickly
Marriage brings conflict because two selfish people live in close quarters. Conflict drains happiness out of a marriage. Things don’t get resolved and bitterness builds up over time. The good news is that one of God’s purposes in marriage is our sanctification. But we have to know what to do for that to happen. We have to resolve conflict quickly. If you’re growing in grace through bible intake and self-examination, you’ll see your faults more clearly. You’ll be prompted to confess your sin and repent more readily. You’ll be eager to forgive. And be the first to do so! That’s part of what Paul means when he says don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t ignore Him when He convicts you. You’re going to have to make a decision to stop being selfish in the moment; to stop being ugly; to stop being unfair. You must humble yourself. When you do, it gets easier over time, and yes, the happier your marriage will be.
Challenge One Another Spiritually
No one likes to be rebuked. Even loving admonition is hard to take. Yet, real Christians love the aftermath of rebuke. God works in our hearts and we grow. While our flesh loves sin, the inner man loves righteousness (Rom. 7:15-23). So, when my wife admonishes me, she’s helping me to be who I really want to be. I love God more, and when I love Him more, I love her more. And that makes us both happy.
Pray for One Another
Finally, don’t underestimate the need for and benefit of prayer. God is the one who does the work, but He works through prayer. Going to God in prayer is no mere religious or spiritual exercise. It really is going to God – the only one who can change someone’s heart. And when you pray for God to work in your spouse’s heart, and you should every day, make sure you pray He works in your heart first.
These things aren’t everything, but they’re foundational. And if you get these five things right, everything else will fall into place (Matt. 6:33).