There’s a trend in today’s churches, and it’s thinking runs along these lines: We need to understand where people are coming from, listen to them, sympathize with them, not tell them our opinion unless they ask for it, be gracious and loving to them, and make sure we have a relationship with them before we tell them that they’re wrong. Have you heard that?
This trend is good, and it’s bad.
It’s good because we need to have compassion on people. We need to have mercy and grace. That’s what the Bible teaches, isn’t it? God has had mercy on us, so we should have mercy on others (Matthew 5:7, for example).
It’s bad because it makes us afraid to tell other people the truth. We don’t want to be avoided as if we were “negative” people. I mean, you know what they say: “Avoid toxic people.” We don’t want to be “toxic,” do we? We don’t want to bash people over the head with the truth–we want to form relationships. And then, someday . . . we might venture to express our opinions. When they’re ready, of course.
People are quick to point to Jesus and say that He was full of grace for people, that He befriended sinners and dined with them. He did, didn’t He?
But is that all He ever did? Sit down at wells and chat with sinful women about their pasts? Is Jesus a comfy-couch psychologist taking notes and nodding His head while we pour out our failures and fears?
This question came to mind as I watched this video the other day capturing a man at an abortion clinic being attacked both verbally and physically by a woman who had just come out of it. The woman’s words and actions are atrocious. The shock, to me, was how the people responded in the comments: some had it all turned around–they somehow saw a video of an angry man preaching hate to a vulnerable woman who just needed to be understood. What video were they watching, I wonder? And what Bible do they read?
It was intriguing to me that as the publisher of the video tried to refocus people’s attention on the main issue through the straightforward question, “Is abortion murder?” nobody bothered to respond to it. They sidestepped it and chose to target the peripheral issue, that of just HOW the man on the sidewalk should have approached the woman. According to them, he should have 1)either not said anything at all, or 2)asked the woman to coffee, or something. But that doesn’t address the fact that children are being murdered in the facility she just left. She ignored him when he mentioned this, and so did many of the people who commented on the video. The main thought in my head was, “Who’s standing up for the children?”
Here’s the truth: if we knew that there was a slaughter house down the street that was devoted to ripping apart the bodies of little two-year-olds, we would tear down the doors and rescue those innocent little toddlers from their evil torturers. And we would preach to every single soul that even DARED to have a part in it, YOU BET WE WOULD!!!
I’m amazed that the man on the sidewalk was so calm and collected; he was so polite even when the lady threw her drink at him and spewed lies at him. I wanted to pat him on the shoulder and say,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-11).
I wanted to share with him the story of the prophet Micaiah (2 Chronicles 18) who was the only man who told the truth–though it was extremely unpopular at the time–against the word of 400 false prophets who said only what the king wanted to hear, what made him feel good about himself. Do you think maybe Jesus was referring in part to him?
Is preaching to people wrong? I mean, should anybody ever preach to people when they’re not actually sitting in a chair in a church service? Is it okay to tell people the truth without always “investing in a relationship” first?”
So, what would Jesus do? Would he ever preach to people? Let’s take a look:
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
This is so good, I feel like standing up on the top of a chair and giving a cheer: Jesus preached repentance! How can anybody miss that?
How can we have a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus unless we first REPENT of our sin? It is impossible to be near to the Lord in an intimate friendship when we’re still trying to hide our sin from Him. Folks, if we want to get close to Jesus, we need to be REAL with Him. We can’t be like that woman and make a claim on Jesus’ forgiveness while at the same time denying that we’ve ever done anything wrong–while yelling at the prophets (sidewalk preachers) Jesus sends them to warn them to repent. Didn’t Jesus say that whoever rejects his messengers (who share the truth of His word) rejects Him? (Luke 10:16).
It seems clear to me from the Bible reading I’ve done, that there is a time for sitting down and chatting with women at the well; there is a time for teaching deep truths on a hillside; and there is a time for saying, just like Jesus did, “Repent.”