The Following Contribution Is From:
Rev. William Monday, Board Member
People of Grace
Be as Shrewd as the Devil but as Innocent as the Spirit…
Fellow Christians: When the Lord sent out his disciples into a world which was opposed to Him, he said these words: “Be as shrewd as serpents but as innocent as doves.” To put it simply, he was saying, “Be clever in what you do and say (and what you don’t do and say) because souls are at stake, souls who need you although they will seek to destroy your very life, if they could.” Jesus gave this command to his disciples, who were being sent out like sheep before wolves, for one purpose: to share the gospel. (Matthew 10:16)
I’d like to apply Jesus’ command, dear Christians, in light of what the US Supreme Court ruled yesterday in regard to the approval of same-sex marriage.
When you and I interact with a culture opposed to God’s will, it’s essential to listen to our Master’s calling: To paraphrase, “Be shrewd as the devil, but do not sin; be as innocent as the Spirit.” In other words, we have to give careful thought to how we approach a wayward non-believing culture. Too much is at stake. Relying on the gospel alone, we must do all we can to win souls without sinning/without letting anything hinder that, especially our words and conduct. We must speak the truth but wisely and in love. Here, then, is something to keep in mind…
As surprising as it may sound, I would encourage Christians: Do not comment on the ruling by the Supreme Court to nonbelievers. (Christians can and should share their thoughts with other Christians for mutual encouragement but not in the hearing of nonbelievers. That might mean foregoing a post on FB or on a website where there’s a mixed crowd, or taking a previous post down altogether. Call a Christian brother or sister instead. Email or text them. Or, better yet, gather this Sunday with Christians and pray together for the Lord’s mercy for all of us. Be mutually encouraged in Christ and help each other practice the language of truth and love. Make the most of every opportunity precisely because the days are evil. I am in danger of violating this principle myself with this post, but my hope is that this post might prevent further unwise approaches in light of this issue and create more opportunity for the advancement of the gospel.)
You see, nonbelievers just won’t get the Scriptural view on this issue. They won’t ever get it, if they aren’t first won over by the gospel. “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do.” And, even if they did get it, without faith in Christ Jesus, they are as lost as they ever were. (We would be the same way, if it weren’t for God’s grace to us in receiving the gospel. This should engender all the more compassion for nonbelievers on whatever side of whatever issue.) So, why speak to this SCOTUS decision in the name of Jesus to a wayward world? Why not just speak of the name of Jesus in light of this decision? Once he’s received, all the other issues will follow as he directs. Let the gospel alone be the sticking point. (Wasn’t the gospel alone what Jesus gave up his life for? It was for no other issue. See Mark 14:61-62. Before a hardened non-believing crowd, he avoided other issues – he would not be trapped by them. Furthermore, he veiled his language in parables. A quick journey through the red letters in the gospels would be an excellent pursuit at this time for all of us.)
Paul’s interaction in Athens at the meeting of the Areopagus is a beautiful example of being shrewd but innocent. On a hill full of idolatry, Paul doesn’t start off by condemning the non-believing audience for their idolatry. He doesn’t start off his conversation by pointing out how they smashed the first commandment to smithereens. (Think about how restrained Paul was in his spirit over that abomination as a former Pharisee and as an ambassador for Christ.) Instead, in love, Paul finds an angle to present the gospel of Jesus Christ when he compliments them for being a “religious people.” He compliments them first!!! Talk about going to great lengths not to alienate his unbelieving audience until he can deliver the gospel to them! Wow! (Acts 17:16…)
Dear Christian, we can do the same. For many, the issue at hand is all about love. The opposition’s hill has altars for gods of “love” of multiplying kinds where they are more and more unwilling to rule out any form of “love.” Let’s use this issue as an opportunity to point to the True God of Love on a Cross and what that love really means. Wouldn’t it be wiser to address unbelievers on this issue with the following: “I can see by this issue that you are zealous for love. That’s what this is all about to you. That’s what you are seeking. Can I share with you my hope from the God of love? Once we agree on that, I can share my perspective on this.” Until they put their faith in him, what good is it for them to know what you and I are against? We would do well to tell them first what we are for in the hopes of winning them over. We need to keep the major things major.
So, what does an approach to the non-believing world look like in light of same-sex marriage? Humbly, I’ll give you a example from a conversation from one of my friends on Facebook. (I’m preparing a post for early next week which will be yet another attempt. I’d humbly encourage God’s people to take note of the approach and tone and post/share ways of doing even better. And in the meantime, I’d encourage the removal of whatever falls short.)
Friend: I have to say, I have seen some fiercely hateful “Christians” today.
Friend: You know, a Christian’s job is not to judge or hate. Their job is to love their neighbor and forgive. As an atheist, I am a better Christian than most Christians…
Me: Hey [Friend]! It’s been a while. Btw, you are regularly in my prayers for all you are going through in your health and other things you share whether good in your life or not so good. As to today and what’s happened (SCOTUS decision), I believe the most pressing matter for me is your identifying as an atheist. And I do not say that in any condescending manner. You know me smile emoticon. Anyway, I’d love to catch up. I’d simply want to share about my certain hope in Christ. I do not mean to belittle anything decided today in our country. I just believe our souls – those speaking here and elsewhere – and their temporal and eternal hope outweigh everything. And once that’s addressed, everything else falls into place. God bless you richly [Friend]. Jesus Christ came for you and me and all the world and through faith in him, all things will be made right and new forever.
Honestly, dear Christian, the Supreme Court’s ruling is a minor thing in comparison to God’s plan of salvation in human history for gay and straight alike. This act of the highest court in our land is nothing compared to the opportunity we now have to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though this is tough stuff, don’t lose the opportunity. Fellow-Called-Out-Ones, Heirs of Life Eternal, don’t lose your opportunity through unwise words (as good intentioned and as right as we might be).
For more information, every Christian is encouraged to pick up the book Rainbow Savior or get a digital download of it. It’s well worth the $3.99 or $12.95 plus shipping. Chapter 11 “Sweet Land of Liberty” addresses this very approach as outlined here among other things. The whole book, though, provides the evangelical tone so often missing, and it rightly distinguishes between the various audiences we need to address and how. (Go to www.rainbowsavior.com, Amazon, or nph.net, or other Christian book sellers online.) Let’s equip ourselves to be wise as a serpent but innocent as a dove.
All net proceeds go to support People of Grace Inc. a unique fledgling ministry which brings this kind of evangelistic approach to this issue and targets the appropriate audiences with the appropriate messages needed. And I’m just a volunteer for that organization. For more info on People of Grace Inc, go to www.poglutherans.org. If you’d like to have a speaker from People of Grace Inc, share with you more intense Scriptural insight on this matter, don’t hesitate to contact us through the website.
Pastor Bill Monday