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This past Sunday night in our small group, we came upon the following verse from 2 Timothy 2:25:
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth
It hit me pretty clearly that I have not been doing this in the past week in my blog articles about Donald Trump, immigration and refugees.
Whenever I see the poor, vulnerable and oppressed and I see Scripture that tells me to defend them, I can easily become over-emotional. I can relate with Peter when he cuts off the Roman guard’s ear during Jesus’s arrest (John 18:1-14). He’s probably just doing his best Elijah impersonation, thinking God will be pleased with his zeal. Instead he gets put in his place by Jesus, the revealed King of an upside-down kingdom.
While the zeal I have for the oppressed is truly rooted in Scripture and in compassion, it also gets mixed up with my own pride. Pride that I’m right. Pride that is impatient. Pride that is judgmental. Pride that reverts to name calling, quick fixes, and black-and-white, for-me-or-against-me thinking. Pride that is sin.
I will go to a conference or training on some element of caring for the oppressed and come home high as a kite on all my zeal. I’ll tell my wife all about it and my new enlightened wisdom (and essentially how she and the Church are failing). This upchucking of zeal isn’t helpful at all. It short-circuits the chance for anyone to learn and it short-changes the process God uses to teach us things. A slow, gradual, humble process.
With immigration reform, I got sucked in. I was reading some blog posts from Christian activists and started zealously typing myself. I wanted in on this. I wanted to be on the right side of history, with my name next to the oppressed, and I didn’t care who I had to fight to do it.
The thing is, Jesus never fought.
Fighting comes from pride. It also comes from thinking we are in control and have the power…again signs of pride.
In addition, we all have biases we bring to the text of Scripture. All of us; myself definitely included. We need to do our very best to objectively strip away these biases, but the only way to do that is with humility. And if we notice bias others are bringing with them, we must not act as if we ourselves are not encumbered with the same disability. We must speak the truth in love.
Which of course can only come be accomplished with humility.
I know I need to change how I talk and write about biblical justice issues in the future. And I know I will indeed continue talking and writing about these topics, I don’t really have a choice. To attempt not to would result in the same response Jeremiah had in Jeremiah 20:9,
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
I am going to do my best to slow things down. Frankly, I’ll take any advice those reading this can give me. To not make things so black-and-white, for-me-or-against-me, like there are only two options or two ways to apply or interpret a Scripture text. To give the benefit of the doubt. To show respect to how the other side came to its conclusions. To do my best to humbly, lovingly and gently lay out the factual or Scriptural items that took me from Point A to Point B so that people who are at Point A can receive it and see if the Lord is leading them to Point B as well. He might not be. Or it might not be this second. But that’s the beauty of the Lord being in control and the Lord using his words and education to grow us. We’re all wired differently and he’s going to work on us differently, with different timing and in different areas, in different ways.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ that I’ve offended with my zeal, to those who feel I’ve cut off their ears, I sincerely apologize. Please know my heart is rooted in Scripture and being faithful to every page of it. Pray for me as I learn what “faithful” means. Pray that faithful is mixed with grace and humility rather than the silent assassin of pride.