There is absolute truth and it absolutely matters. Christians must love truth because they follow the Truth.
Everything is staked on what we believe.
I want to be the kind of man who lives and dies for the Scriptures. Yet, the great irony is that in my defense of the Bible, I can often sin against others and therefore violate the Bible. If I am not careful, I can treat people of opposing views as completely evil. My view of them becomes one-sided and I only think of them as someone who doesn’t believe [blank].
People are more complex than this and I find myself shocked at times when,
- I receive a kind note from a pro-abortion friend who asks about my life says they are praying for me.
- I see a theistic evolutionist who gives sacrificially to the poor.
- I hear of a universalist who welcomes the broken into their home to minister to them.
Perhaps even reading these lines grates against you. Indeed they should. God wants our doctrine and our lives to match and everyone of the above examples is an oxymoron. These friends claim love Jesus but are believing false teaching.
How should we engage those we strongly disagree with?
I do not have all the answers, but here are some thoughts from the book of James.
1) Be slow to anger (James 1:20)
Be slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Check your heart.
Jesus remained sinless the entire time he flipped tables and drove out the hypocrites. Do not have as high of expectations for yourself. Often times our righteous anger is self-driven. We are so sinful that we can claim a good cause and spew our venom at the same time. Love is not easily angered. There are times when our blood should boil, but we must have our hand on the stove dial, and there always needs to be love in our burner.
2) Give mercy as you have been given mercy (James 2:13)
For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.
If the person you are critiquing believes the true gospel, treat him as you would a brother. We have the right to strongly disagree, but we do not have the right to sin against one another. Give the benefit of the doubt and do not treat a brother or sister like a dirt bag to drag through the mud.
3) Tame the Tongue (James 3:2-10)
With our tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the image of God. This ought not be! In our critique, do we show honor to the individual? Or do we curse the ground they walk on?
Do we treat them as people created by God for his glory? Do we give them respect? Or do we treat them like vermin to be exterminated?
4) Love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8)
Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Be fair in your representation of their arguments. Do not use Ad Hominem arguments that attack them rather than their beliefs. Cultivate a genuine love for them in your heart. Pray for them and long for them to believe truth. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?”
5) Be confident and calm in Christ (James 3:13-18)
Even though we have the right to bear arms, let us load our arsenal with bullets of truth, love, meekness, and humility.
In our conversations, let us be winsome and confident in the truth. The wisdom that is from above is gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, good fruits, impartial and sincere. Let us display this confidence by maintaining control in the conversation and not yelling at those who disagree. Christ does not need our help in convincing others of the truth. He simply calls us to be faithful to share the truth in love with all meekness.
6) Do not speak evil against one another, brothers (James 4:11)
God does not want us to slander his creation. Let us be careful that we do not sin against God while we represent him to the watching world. Let us be especially careful when we talk about brothers and sisters when they are not around. God hears every word about his craftsmanship and takes it seriously. Even liberals are made in the image of God and we should treat them as such.
7) Bring people back from wandering (James 5:20)
God does not call us to be pacifists when his glory is at stake and souls are on the line. God rejoices when one wandering soul returns to the truth and repents. Let us be people who speak the truth boldly in sincere love.
Blessed are those who proclaim truth to all people and treat them as people made in the image of God.
3 thoughts on “Oxymorons and the Image of God”
Excellent grounding when we fly off the handle to those misguided or when confronted by opposing distorted doctine. James’ seven “commandments” as outlined by Sean are essential tools we should carry and use to be the effective witnesses’ and followers Jesus whould have us to be. And in doing so, these principles will bring us even closer in our daily walk with the Lord.
These are good words.
Having spent thanksgiving weekend with my family (believers with significantly different doctrinal beliefs), had we all read this before the weekend I think our conversation would have been considerably different.
Thanks again for the encouraging and convicting thoughts.
Thank you for your kind comment Joel.