bits from bob....

The Divine Agenda and our Speech

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

A few years ago, a Christian college lectureship focused an urgent need in the church. We must "Seek the Divine Agenda." In our day, some push for change while others are frustrated with the possibility of change. Because it is not always easy to distinguish message from methods, accusations of apostasy are hurled, and counter-accusations of legalism echo back. Some want faster change, some want to slow change down.

I am disturbed by some of what I hear. To speak in broad sweeping general statements, with accusing fingers, thoughtlessly, destructively, divisively hurts the Lord's church. Casting stones at Phariseeism, brandishing labels, setting up straw men, taking sides, and pronouncing guilt by association are all too common. In most cases, the people accused have never been approached by the accusing party. There have been no conversations, no contacts, no spirit of loving concern. Innuendo and assumed motives are set forth as true in prints and reprints with no checks for accuracy. Such ought not so to be!

Faulty (and false) information floats and is repeated, not only in church squabbles, but about organizations and persons in the broader culture. For example, an article from one of "our" periodicals was recently copied verbatim for a newspaper article. The article claimed a national organization had adopted a pro-homosexual platform. A quick check of the facts reveals that the statement is not true. The organization's convention adopted no policy. It is true that pro-homosexual literature was distributed in public areas at the convention, but that distribution was beyond the control of the organization. We would likewise have little control if a homosexual group decided to distribute literature on the public sidewalks in front of our buildings.

If anything is ruining the influence and impact of the churches of Christ as the new millennium begins, it may be the words we hurl so carelessly. Because such is not becoming children of God, the world turns a deaf ear. The world is watching us, consider what it sees.

  • First, most of our conflicts do not reflect the spirit of Christ. When He was reviled, He reviled not in return (1 Pet. 2:21ff). He was willing rather to suffer. When He had something against the Pharisees, He did not talk about them behind their backs but accused them to their faces. When He told them what he had against them and urged them to repent, he was willing to forgive. We must recapture that agenda if the church is to be Christ-like. Otherwise, the words "Church of Christ" over our doors will be meaningless to the world we are trying to reach.

  • Second, while our motives are good and pure, and most are trying to help the church be the best it can be, gossip in the name of Christ is still sin. To speak unsubstantiated ill against others destroys the body of Christ. Even when facts are substantiated, to use them to castigate churches, ministries, and preachers, especially in petty disagreements, is not fitting for the people of God.

  • Third, ironically such behavior as occurs among us is not even acceptable in the pagan world. Pagans have higher values than that. Pagans call it slander or libel. Why should our standards be lower than the standards of the world? Our call to exemplary behavior in a world of hatred and ill-will is to show alternatives to such attitudes and actions. To a selfish world, will we show sacrifice? In a world mired in unethical quagmires, will we model godliness? In a world typified by undercutting, vengeance, bitterness, and anger, will the church show how people can disagree and still love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ? Where else will the world see Christ if not in us? Where will the world learn of love if not in the Lord's church?

    The divine agenda is that we live honorable, exemplary lives among our neighbors. Let us be about the task! The tongue and pen are indeed mighty. Perhaps they should be labeled: Danger Zone!

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    Last updated January 7, 2002.