This may seem like something strange to say, but I want to thank all the scorners of conservative Christians. I want to thank the mockers and the scoffers. I want to thank all those who rejoice when professing Christians fall. I even want to thank those who have directed their contempt to my family. I don’t thank them because I approve of their mocking, scoffing, and hatred, but rather because of the great service they are rendering to the people of God. I don’t thank them because I think they are just and fair in their contemptuous words, but if we are careful we just might find something of value in what they say.
When someone slings mud at you, some of it misses the mark, a little hits you and falls off, some sticks and easily wipes off, but some of it clings fast. It may as well be a barbed spear that you can’t shake. You can’t shake it because it is true. It may not be totally true, but there is enough truth in it that it makes you uncomfortable in spite of where it came from.
When we face accusations and criticism we have a choice to make. For one, we can simply ignore it. Or, we can react to what is false and deny any truth in what they say simply because of our disdain for the source. On the other hand, we can use it in a constructive way. We can employ any truth in their diatribes to humble our hearts and as we acknowledge the truth, use their sharp criticism as a razor to cut away what is truly wrong in our lives. This latter approach causes us to benefit from the scorn we receive. It can make us humble while at the same time causing us to amend our faults. You see if we don’t admit our failings we are in danger of becoming hypocrites. It is humbling to acknowledge our defects, yet it is a necessary part of the Christian life. In fact, owning up to our sins before God is the first step in finding forgiveness from him.
The Bloody Man
In the Old Testament there is a story in the life of King David of how he dealt with a hater that is instructive to us.
“And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.” 2 Samuel 16:5-13
In this narrative, Shimei was unjustly accusing David. Earlier in David’s life, while Saul was pursuing him, David had gone out of his way to spare Saul when he had opportunity to kill him. Saul’s son Jonathan had been David’s best friend before he was killed in a battle with the Philistines. Even after winning a war between David’s men and Saul’s, David had gone out of his way to show kindness to the house of Saul.
A Tool Of God
Yet David was all too aware of the truth in what Shimei said. He called David a bloody man. That dart must have pierced his soul like a thunderbolt from heaven. David had been a bloody man. He made sure that the husband of the woman he committed adultery with was killed in battle. It was, in fact, worse than what Shimei accused him of falsely. It was as a result of this very sin that David was now running for his life. David chose to apply the false accusation to the real problem in his life. Shimei was a tool of God to humble David and remind him of the reason that he was fleeing his home.
We Need To Clean Up Our Own House
Just like it was in David’s day, God still uses the scoffers to point out areas of sin and hypocrisy in his people. We have been busy trying to cast motes out of the eyes of the world, (there is a place for that) and all the while we are blind to the beam in our own. We are not in a strong position to be reprimanding the world, (and God knows they need it) until we clean up our own house. We conservative Christians have a lot to repent of. We are playing the hypocrite by castigating others, yet not dealing with our own sins. It is no wonder we are under the correcting hand of God.
How many scandals must rock the Christian church before we realize that we have some issues? It seems that the scandals keep coming, and we are secretly happy when it is from some segment of the church we don’t particularly like. But then it strikes closer to home. What’s our excuse now?
The Moral Struggle
There are two issues at play in these scandals. The first is a moral issue. If sin in the heart is not adequately dealt with it will eventually manifest itself externally. We all have moral struggles in our hearts. This is why the apostle Paul said “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12. None of us are above the moral struggle with sin. We must be vigilant to mortify the sins in our life.
What We Believe Matters
The second issue is theological. What we believe affects how we live, and wrong doctrine leads to bad living. Invariably when we find moral failure in our lives, we can trace it to some belief we hold that is false or out of balance. It is good to be aware of how our beliefs affect our behavior. The great rebalancer of our theology is a proper emphasis on the pure gospel of Christ. When we stray too far from holding Christ’s person and redeeming work at the center of our lives we begin to stray in other areas as well. Jesus warned us of the consequences of putting him in second place. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Revelation 2:4,5
In spite of the warnings we fell. We didn’t mortify our sins. We de-emphasized the gospel and promoted our own pet doctrines in its place. We thought that we needed additional do’s and don’ts because God’s moral law wasn’t extensive enough for us. We thought that through the law we could find power over sin, only to find more condemnation. We sought to be justified by our right living instead of Christ. It has led to hypocrisy and powerlessness over sin. We struggle with guilt and we seek to ameliorate it by more exacting obedience only to find that the more we strive the more guilty we become. We must reexamine our focus and look to the cross alone as the solution to our sin problem. The law is good if we use it lawfully but it can never justify us. It is Christ in his perfect law keeping. It is Christ in his suffering and death. It is Christ in his resurrection. Jesus Christ alone saves sinners and then gives us the ability to walk in obedience.
But we fell and so they mock. Let them. Let their scoffing enter into our hearts deeply. It is from the Lord. Let it remind us of our need of repentance and to remember our first love. Let us go to Christ and there find all the forgiveness, acceptance, and power that we so desperately need.
Christ Our Righteousness
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:3,4
If this post stirred any thoughts please share them below. Do you ignore criticism, react harshly, or use it to examine your heart? (I am not saying that it is wrong to ignore mockers, or even at times to deal firmly with them, but it always seems appropriate to use it to examine your heart.)