Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Christian, Debate, Gossip, and Love

There once was a time, or so I’m told, before the invention of the internet. Before Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, G+. Before ICQ messenger, before MSN, before – even – TCP was even imagined. A time when you had to carry a soapbox into the town square before shouting your opinion for all to hear. Before that, the Areopagus was the place to be heard. Before that, the city gates.

Since the universe popped into existence, people have been debating even that. Along came post-modernism, with it’s singular commandment, “thou shalt not reason”, and the same people agreed to disagree, only now in silent judgement instead of robust discourse. “What is truth?” asked Pilate, and purged his consciousness of reason.

50 days later, Peter laid the truth bare, for all and sundry to hear. Paul had what today would be called a nasty habit of going to the synagogue to reason with the Pharisees. If that falls short of convincing you that standing for the truth is a part of the Christian life, perhaps the words of our Creator will suffice: “Come, let us reason.”

We’re born again. Born again into life with One who called Himself the Truth. We are not afforded the luxury of flipping the circuit breaker to your grey matter. Heart, soul, and mind are expected to be powered up and tuned in to the One whose glory is our sole purpose for existence.

The Devil, I’m sure, got wind of this, and engaged in a flanking manoeuvre. Instead of muting the immutable message we carry, he seems to have aimed his charge at our character, seeking to gain advantage from the injury of insult. Some, alas, have turned their tails at this tactic, and the truth – the Truth – suffers, though never for long.

Set in antithesis we see the Truth (Jesus) and the liar of old (satan). All truth, it follows, belongs to Jesus; All falsehood, to satan. Reason is Christ’s. Fallacy, satan’s.

On that ground, we can (must!) argue the truth in any area of life, from Life eternal, to politics, to taxes, to abortion, to same sex marriage, to gun control.

“Oh. That’s where this is going? Gun control?” thought half my audience, moving pointers towards the big red X.

Short answer: no, not exactly, but it does fall into the same discussion.

See, if we accept that all truth is Christ’s, and that in mirroring Christ, we are to stand in the truth, we must also come to terms with the responsibilty we have to argue. At some point, each of us may have a choice between silence, and nailing 95 thesis to the church door. A time when we dig in our heels, lay the cards on the table, and say, “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!”

And if we accept that all truth is Christ’s, and that this is the truth we are to present, we quickly realise that we are free to openly state that abortion is murder, that same sex relationships are a dodgy knock-off of the real deal, that the State has zero authority to enforce laws contrary to morality, and that each and every one of us has the God-given right to defend ourselves and our families.

The coherence of Christianity also covers the fallen state of this world. They say ignorance is bliss, but the Christian is called to be in touch with reality. We don’t get to stick our heads in the sand, to go through life on autopilot, ignoring the data which filters in through our eyes, ears, noses, and fingertips. We don’t get to ignore the reality that the world in which we walk, is strangled by a dark fog; a bleak, hard, ruinous world, pierced intermittently by little dots of light where ever a Christian happens to be. We don’t get to ignore that out there, in the dark fog, are hideous creatures cowering in nooks and crannies, waiting to pounce; hissing at us when our beam of light finds their faces.

Jesus said two things: “The darkness hated the light” and, “Do not hide your light under a bushel.” Then He said, “don’t act surprised when the darkness hates you too.” If Christ is the Light, and we are all bringing His light into the world, how desperate must Satan be to snuff out the flame in each of us?

Conversely, Christ told us to love one another. In complete contrast to the vehement hatred coming our way from the world, we are told, “love one another, as I (Jesus) have loved you.” I won’t expand too much on this. A friend of mine wrote a fairly comprehensive piece on it, which you can find here.

I will add this, though: we’re many grains, made into one bread. We’re born again, not to be an isolated island, but into the body. A house divided against itself, cannot stand. It is akin to cancer, for one body part to depsise another, and hence Paul tells us to “put off all envy, malice, and division” as being carnal and unbecoming of the born again. In James, we’re told to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

In the context of debate, what does that look like?

Does it look like love, to twist the words of someone, and force them to defend themselves? Does it look like love, to smear a persons name for something they have written? To take a second hand account of their opinion as if it were their own, and trash their name for it? To even entertain hearsay and what Scripture calls “backbiting”, without stopping to ask, “Is that what they were saying?”? To come to a discussion without being open to the idea that, as a human in a broken world, you just may be the one who has it wrong?

When you argue – and note that I use the word argue in the definition of presenting a case for or against something, rather than the term “bicker” and “quarrel” - do you look more like the example set out in James, or like the fool of Proverbs 18:2, who is not interested in understanding, but only in giving voice to his opinion?

Do you read what is written, before commenting? Do you let someone finish speaking, or do you cut them off before they finish? Have you asked for an explanation where you are unsure? When someone speaks, is your first thought about the person speaking, or about the words they are say?

And while we’re being introspective, would you enjoy it if you were treated in the way you treat others? Are you “doing unto others”?

Going further, do you provide good reason when you are in disagreement with something which has been said? Is your reasoning sound? And why does that matter anyway?

Well, if we’ve accepted that truth is Christ’s, and that fallacy is Satan’s (bearing in mind that the word “fallacy” is quite literally the opposite of the word “truth”), our only option as those born again into the truth, putting on the new man, leaving carnal things behind, is to reject fallacy. Reject falsehood. Reject sloppy thing. Reject logical fallacy.

Seek truth. Seek clarity. Embrace the Light.

What then, shall we all become robots, psychopaths, or androids, devoid of emotions? Shall we break everything down to ones and zeros? Reject the very real emotions with which we were created “in His image”?

Obviously not: we know that God made all things “good”, not just “good enough”. There is a perfect standard, even for emotions. The flip side of this is that, while we are living on this side of the Second Coming, we must accept that we cannot measure up to the perfect standard, so it is just as possible to be wrong in our emotions, as it is in our thoughts. Just like we need to “hold every thought captive”, we find we need to compare our feelings to a perfect standard.

If then, our feelings can cloud our reason, and our pride may blur our discernment, shouldn’t we constantly be checking if we are being good reflectors at every moment, doing everything we can to make sure that our emotions are not what is preventing us from “speaking the truth in love?”

I’ll not say that I’ve got it right, but I will take as example a recent experience. In the last week, I was having a fairly intense debate with someone, on social media, and both of us argued with vigour, and with passion. Both of us presented our case, for or against. But we discussed the topic. And only the topic. And midway through, the person who I was having this argument with had the audacity to tell me that he was praying for me. Instantly humbled, I did the same, and I gotta tell say: it’s awful hard to go after a person when you’re praying for them.

So, what then? Pray for everyone you argue with? Who has time for that? I mean, we’ve got time to talk to our workmates about some idiot on the internet, but who has time to say a quick prayer for him?

Imagine how we could grow, if argument meant trying to find the truth, instead of being seen as divisive. Imagine how much closer the body would become to each other, if we managed on the one hand, to be sensitive to the feelings of one group, while on the other also managing to become open to the reasoning of the other group.

Imagine we all actively aimed to find the perfect balance of truth and love. Don’t you see? It’s not a dichotomy! It’s not one or the other! It’s both! Perfect truth, perfect love; Perfect reason, perfect emotions.

That’s the new man we’re meant to put on! That’s the postion we’re redeemed to by blood. What we were bought for. Why we were made bondservants of Christ and heirs to salvation. That’s how we come to “love one another”.

Are you going to settle for anything less?


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