Words, walls, and the winning way of Jesus

In the days after the November 3rd election, I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading posts from people with crosses, fish symbols and scripture references in their taglines, that left me grieved.

They used words like, “go to hell,” held up their Bibles, guns, favored-candidate’s flag, and accused other Christians on social media of being “baby-killers” and “lost” because they pledged to pray for a pro-choice democrat if elected. In response I tweeted this question:

“Christian, if you’re cutting people off, calling them names, mocking and slandering them, how exactly are you loving your enemies?”

But simply sub-tweeting a pained reply to what I read on social media isn’t going to make the difference I long to see.

One of the writers I follow on Twitter, recently said:

It’s easier to write a book about a subject than to live the subject in a low, slow, & consistent way. If we think we’ll make a bigger difference in the world thru publishing our message than by simply living our message, God will (hopefully tenderly, softly, kindly) correct us.” – @lorewilbert

Social media and the internet make it easy for anyone to write anything. But as Lore points out, living the words we publish in a, “…low, slow & consistent way,” is the real world-changer. The incarnation of our words is a demonstration of power. To persuade a group of people to like what you say or repeat what you say is a kind of power. But to take the words you say and live them out changes lives.

It was easy for me to post my subtweet response on Facebook. It will be much harder, and much more an evidence of the power of Christ in me when I love the people who post such things, the same way Christ has loved me.

I’m convicted that Christians are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), do good to them (Luke 6:27), pray for them (Matthew 5:44), go above and beyond to show them unearned kindness (Matthew 5:40-42) give to them (Romans 12:10), speak words of grace (Collosians 4:6) and truth with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:14-16).

It feels weird to say it, but my “enemies” are people who use mean words on social media to demonize people they don’t agree with. Living out what I wrote, “low and slow” means praying for those people. Taking actual time out of my day to move my lips and complain to God, not social media, seeking mercy on their behalf just as I have been shown great mercy from Jesus. And if possible, meeting with them personally to humbly listen and share the truth and grace of Jesus.

Jesus is clear. The way he has prescribed and empowered us to follow him is from a humble, gentle, yet bold posture. A posture that doesn’t use words to tear people down or prop yourself up. The way commanded to us is a way of wisdom, self-control and gracious speech. But, is there a time for Christians to mock or use name calling?

In the Bible, Jesus called the religious leaders who tied heavy burdens on their followers and used them for financial gain a, “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).

In the Bible, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) in an ancient showdown.

These examples make us stand up and cheer! We latch on easily to the person with the wittiest comebacks and sharpest jabs. We hear meek Jesus put those Pharisees on blast, and Elijah drop the mic on the prophets of Baal, and we arm ourselves Biblical support for mocking and name calling.

I doubt that any of us can, with a pure heart, call another people group a degrading name, or make fun of another religion’s gods, in a way that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples. But even if there are times when such shocking words are spoken with humility and boldness, these biblical examples don’t prescribe a mode of operation for Christians.

If our mode of operation as Christians turns from the humble, bold way of Jesus, to the in-your-face, mocking, proud, name-calling way of the culture and wayward leaders, I fear we will offend our neighbors and enemies and wall ourselves in tight from all opposing views so well, we will lose the chance to win them to Christ.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. – Proverbs 18:19

Arguing with a sovereign God: Confessions of a back talker

toddler with red adidas sweat shirt
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

Today at church a guest pastor preached.  And I mean preached. And it hit me right upside the head.

Both this week and last my pastor, and the pastor who preached today, brought a message about the sovereignty of God and how it is that people come to salvation by God’s election from Romans 9. Truths were proclaimed with light and passion that drove away the snakes that wanna slither up and bite you with doubt about the goodness of the God of the Bible.

I confess I had a really hard time last week with what was proclaimed.  I found myself like Jacob, wrestling with God and there was no nice neat bow to wrap up my attempts to grip and twist God into someone I could have some kind of control over.  I scribbled notes in my bullet journal about how not everyone who calls themself a Christian is a Christian.  Just like everyone who called themself a child of Abraham in Jesus’ time wasn’t really a child of Abraham.  Big amens resounded from my heart. I could see that and I agreed.

But when he said, “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated” I tried to do a low center of gravity blow to the God who created the universe and take him down to a place where I could get hold.  I sobbed my way through that preaching. I stopped scribbling notes and eeked out a poem:

I keep wrestling with your sovereignty
I want to give up
What good does it do to be angry
I just can’t stop until you bless me

I couldn’t hide my arguments from God.  I wanted to know if my husband was Esau.  “Do you hate him?!”  I thought.  As though he was a defendant and I the prosecutor.

I tried to listen and grab hold of something tangible.  But like a strong, sweaty man, wrestling God’s sovereignty was breaking me. He wan’t submitting to my grip.

Although I left last Sunday limping, broken, not understanding, I resigned myself to wait for his blessing.  To wait for the day when I would hear some sweet message of hope in the hard sound of his all-powerful voice.

Today was the day.

I limped through this week, and today he blessed me.  Not with cupcakes and sprinkles.  No cheap, easy-to-swallow feel-good message today.  But a blessing of a good father.  I finally saw the look in his eye.  I had been throwing a fit and he caught my eye today and I realized, I’m a back-talking child of God.

The pastor today said many things I scribbled down, caught in attention like a misbehaving child stopped by her dad’s strong and serious voice.  But one particular thing brought me to my knees.  He said:

Whenever we begin to question a sovereign God on issues of justice and mercy we are way out of our depth…
God is God therefore whatever he does is godly.
God is God therefore whatever he does is just.
God is God therefore whatever he does is good.

I’m not comparable to Job.  I’ve suffered pains of the heart but not the trauma, pain and loss he did.  But I thought of Job hearing the preaching of the good news in the hard truth of God’s soveriegnty today.  I thought of Job’s reasonable arguments and God’s response:

Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

And the Lord said to Job:
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (Job 38:3-5, 40:1-2)

God is good.  The God who would reveal himself in a suffering servant, bearing the sins of the people who would love him.  And who am I?  I don’t understand. I’m way out of my depth to think I can bend God to my will and make him do what I think is just and right.  And why would I even think I could do that!?

I’m a slow to believe believer.  I’m a back-talking daughter of God.  And today I was humbled by his strong voice and loving character.  I know he’s good.  I know that. I can go on that.

Like Gandalf getting grumbling Bilbo’s attention with his booming voice while Bilbo tried to sneak around giving over the ring of power in his pocket, I was stopped in my tracks today.  Reduced to a whimpering, “I’m sorry Father!”  I walked the aisle to the broken bread and the crushed fruit of the vine and handed over the ring.  He is God.  And he is so good as to make himself broken for me.  I surrender.