Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stand and fight, or walk away and be wronged?

A friend emailed me a copy of this:
"We should not expect a "fair fight" in a secular world that is hostile to God and uncomfortable around the truth of Christ. Therefore, our response to abuse or distortion or slander should not be angry resentment, but patient witness to the truth, in the hope and with the prayer that returning good for evil may open hearts to the truth. We must recognize that persecution of various kinds is normal and that much of the protection we have ...is abnormal in history and in the world. Our witness will not be advanced by resentful huffing and puffing about our rights. It will be advanced by "suffering yet always rejoicing," and by overcoming evil with good, and by steadfast statements and reasonable defenses of the truth. (Matthew 5:43-45; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 2:15, 19-24; 3:9; 4:12)" - DesiringGod.org
Two the two things I've been thinking about here over the last week - Christians and Authorities, and the leading of the Holy Spirit in decisions begin to collide. So, the NT witness shows that sometimes it's right to appeal to legal authorities (as with Paul's appeal to his Roman citizenship) and at othertimes to suffer (as in Paul beaten by the authorities and imprisoned on many occasions). How could we know which way to go?

Slow and prayerful approaches are probably a pretty good baseline to work from. It would seem that there aren't easy one-size-fit's all solutions to many matters. It's entirely possible for two very similar situations to present themselves, and in one God says stand and fight, and in another he says walk away and be wronged. In both case we throw ourselves on the mercy of God and risk having got it wrong. We risk being beaten up both ways. We risk carrying the consequences of our actions for some time to come. But, what we're not risking are gospel promises - they will stand whatever happens to us.

I was stunned in Mark Dever's biographical sketch to hear that Edwards had continued to accept invites to preach at the church that fired him for many months. Talk about overcoming evil with good! What does that sort of godliness look like today?

Along the way Edwards made mistakes. He got details wrong, but his goal was clear. He was desperate for people to enjoy the excellencies of Christ when they were only enjoying the external blessings of the church. Edwards' fight was to require the members of his church to be Christians if they were to have membership. Not because he wanted to push people away but because we was concerned for their life and the glory of God. It cost him his job. He could no longer pastor the congregation in Northampton (USA). He didn't get what he wanted because the people involved didn't want it. It didn't dampen his concern to preach Christ whereever and whenever he could.

The specific issues will be different in our day but the concern must be the same - contending for the gospel not to exclude others but because we are deeply concern to see a lost world saved through it. We fight for the purity of the church and of our preaching for God's sake, and that many may be gathered in from the harvestfields of this world. Certainly we need to consider any way to resolve situations amicably, making every effort to live at peace with all people (Hebrews 12:14) even if the results aren't exactly what we might want. As a last resort, if all peaceful options are exhausted we may need to appeal to the authorities God has given us to bring justice.

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