Category Archives: Theology

The Difference Between Christian Boldness and Aggression

In these changing times, it has become imperative for Christians to stand their ground by articulating their faith in powerful and effective ways. The values of the world have never been the values of the Church. The difference is that the belief system of secular society is gaining ground because Christians have become too lazy and passive in their witness for Jesus Christ.

Now that we have realized our error, there seems to be an overzealous reaction to set things straight. Many Christians have seen the writing on the wall, and have subsequently answered the call to arms in hopes of salvaging any lost ground to the enemy. Instinctively, we may eagerly respond to the pangs of guilt for neglecting our responsibilities by witnessing to others with newfound passion and vigor.

The problem is that sometimes our zeal gets the better of us and we approach people in the wrong spirit. I encourage all Christians to take their faith more seriously, exemplifying a boldness of conviction which takes morality, duty, and salvation seriously. However, I believe that it is imperative for Christians to understand that there is a proper way in which to engage people when entering into constructive dialogue. The goal is to be bold which is often confused with aggressiveness. In this article, I will be explaining the positive and negative differences between the two attitudes.

PASSIVE CHRISTIANITY

The ideal behavior for Christians today is a tenacious boldness seasoned with love. Unfortunately, too many people of faith feel that being passive is a position of humility. But as we will see, there is a stark difference between passiveness and humility.

The Google definition of passive is accepting or allowing what happens, or what others do, without active response or resistance. This attitude is actually unbiblical. It takes on the notion that we have no right or means to spread the beautiful message of the gospel or to help those in need. When people embrace this philosophy they often mistake it as being meek. I argue that many people adopt this way of thinking because it gives them an excuse not to put themselves out in the world in such ways that may garner criticism from secular society.

God clearly calls Christians into action. James tells us to be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (1:22). Jesus tells us that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” and “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:21, 24).

Faith demands that we live out our newfound lives in Christ by taking certain action. Our actions and works will not ensure that we have a seat by Jesus Christ in the next life, because He alone has accomplished the work for salvation. But when we take our identity as children of God seriously, our lives will ultimately transform through grace, and we will sincerely desire to help and love others.

This all boils down to the fact that we can no longer sit quietly in our pews and wait for Jesus to come back. Hiding behind the doors of our churches is sheer selfishness. It is like we are content with our own salvation and unmoved by the multitudes of people dying in their sins.

The world is now a dark and scary place for Christians. It may seem like a daunting task to be so bold as to approach people in the name of Jesus Christ. But this is exactly what we are called to do—not just pastors or specific kinds of Christians—but all people who march under the banner of Heaven.

BOLD CHRISTIANITY

I believe that people often miss just how bold Jesus Christ was in His earthly ministry. We zero in on his gentleness and love and completely ignore that Jesus was a rebel who challenged the religious leaders of Israel.

Consider the fact that Jesus made the bold claim to be God. He knew full well how the people would react, but He was still compelled to tell the truth. Also remember how Jesus disregarded the warnings of the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath Day, flipped over the money changers’ tables, and rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes by calling them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “full of greed and self-indulgence,” “white-washed tombs full of dead bones and everything unclean,” and finally “snakes and a brood of vipers!” (Matt. 23:13-29).

These are not the actions of a passive person who is afraid of offending people. These are the actions of someone who is confident in their understanding of morality and absolute truth. Jesus made it a point to tell people the truth knowing full well that many would be offended. He did not consider the backlash of the ruling class relevant when it came to living out His ministry. And Jesus spoke boldly about the truth in order to give new life to a world dying through sin and separation from God.

But understand that this boldness of Jesus exhibited the demeanor of someone in complete control of their faculties. Jesus never once doubted or questioned Himself when teaching those with ears to hear. He always carried Himself with absolute and unwavering surety in all that He said and did. These are of course the marks of the Divine. But the life of Jesus is also our example for interacting with a hostile and blind society.

Boldness is an intrinsic characteristic of Christians. It is this very boldness that led Jesus Christ to the cross at Calvary and subsequent martyrs to their deaths. Many people die for their beliefs and actions. But Christians are often murdered or treated poorly for actively living out their faith knowing the risks. The findings of the Center for Studies on New Religions showed that 90,000 Christians were killed worldwide for their beliefs last year. The Clarion Project discovered that 600 million Christians were unable to practice their faith due to persecution in 2016.

This caliber of boldness is a testimony to those who critically observe Christians. It is this kind of tenacity that compels unbelievers to consider the gospel message more carefully. Christian boldness reminds the world that believers are fully convinced in their minds of the biblical claims. And this ultimately reveals to the world that if so many people are so bold as to profess the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then such claims cannot be carelessly dismissed if people are to approach the subject with honesty.

When the Pharisees and Scribes arrested Peter and John for preaching about Jesus Christ, they were amazed at their boldness:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (emphasis mine, Acts 4:13).

After they were released they immediately began to pray to God. In their prayers they asked for sustained boldness to preach the good news: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). We need to be praying for newfound and sustained boldness too.

The truth of the matter is that if Christians truly believe in their faith then they will profess it with eagerness and boldness. They will trust in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to put words upon their lips when they speak boldly in the name of Jesus Christ. If we are going to live out our faith, then we must remember that Jesus calls us all to pick up our crosses and follow Him. This is not figurative language pertaining to our daily burdens. It means that we must be bold and witness to people regardless of the consequences.

CHRISTIAN AGGRESSION

The negative aspect of boldness is when it takes on the form of aggression. Lucifer likes to take something good and create a counterfeit and evil version. This is exactly what happens when Christians go from being bold to being aggressive. The underlying difference between the two is that boldness is characterized by being firm and courageous, but aggression is an emotional attack that values the argument more than the person.

I often see this when Christians view atheists as the enemy instead of lost sheep who need a Shepherd. Christian aggression is often used to belittle and demean people who are outside of the faith. Whenever we reduce people to irredeemable heathens who have no hope we are playing at God.

The same aggression is also shown among Christians who differ in theology. I have noticed an unholy bitterness between many Liberal and Conservative Christians. It is all good and well to show a righteous anger over something that is against the will of God. But the problem arises when we arbitrarily judge those who think differently from us as ignorant and damnable people.

It is a shame and disgrace when Christians become aggressive over matters of theology to the point of condemnation and finger pointing. When we find a brother or sister who has a theology at variance with the Bible, our response should not be ridicule, but education through compassion.

In this day and age, I believe one of the most important verses in the Bible is Ephesians 4:15: “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Paul reminds us of two central objects of Christian character and purpose.

It is imperative that we speak the truth to a world drowning in lies. And it is also imperative that we show love to a world shrouded in darkness and crippled by loneliness. The problem is that some Christians only do one of these commands. There are those who propound biblical truth in an aggressive spirit because they are concerned that sin will become commonplace in the Church as much as the world. Then there are those who ignore the truth of the Bible in order to focus on love.

We must learn to show both truth and love because the two are married to one another. You cannot separate them. When Paul writes so eloquently about love in the first letter to the Corinthians, he writes “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (Emphasis mine, v.6). Love and truth are intertwined to one another and cannot be from God if they are separated.

To ignore the truth is not loving at all. It only coddles a generation of selfish pleasures, and ushers people into a life of sin which causes them to be separated from God. And to neglect to show love misses the point of the gospel entirely. Jesus always spoke the truth boldly in a spirit of compassion and love. This is as apparent as the warmth of the sun. Anyone who reads the Scriptures carefully will come to the same conclusion. Consider this explanation from William Channing, a nineteenth-century humanist:

How calm was His piety! Point me, if you can, to one vehement, passionate expression of His religious feelings. Does the Lord’s Prayer breathe a feverish enthusiasm?… His benevolence, too, though singularly earnest and deep, was composed and serene. He never lost the possession of Himself in His sympathy with others; was never hurried into the impatient and rash enterprises of an enthusiastic philanthropy; but did good with the tranquility and constancy which makes the providence of God (McDowell, 162).

Jesus was never aggressive. His emotional equilibrium was well balanced even in the face of ridicule and death. The Pharisees illegally arrested Him and proceeded to belittle and taunt Him. Pilot threatened His life and imposed his supposed power upon Him. The thief on the cross jeered him with many observers in the crowd. Yet not once did Jesus retort with an emotional warning or threat. Instead He prayed for them because that is the kind of Savior we serve.

It is time for us to stop this nastiness of being aggressive. It is good to embark upon the business of our Father. But we must stop being forceful. God has already made the truth plain to people through His own witness and moral law which is written upon the hearts of mankind (Rom. 1:18-20). We must give people time and space to thoroughly understand the beckoning of the Holy Spirit. And we must be patient with one another in the midst of our differences. It does no good for anyone to be pushy and forceful through an autocratic attitude.

Jesus told us that the truth will set us free. Let us take comfort in the fact that we serve our Lord, and let us serve Him with unapologetic boldness that conveys the message of the gospels in a spirit of love.


REFERENCES

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. T. Nelson, 1999.
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Idolizing Love

It may seem strange that I dare to suggest that love can become an idol. Certainly, love is championed in every culture and religion to some capacity, and it is something especially sacred to the Christian faith. For all believers glory in the fact that God is both the Author and Giver of love. In fact, the greatest commandments given to us by Jesus Christ are to love God with all of our hearts, souls, strength, and minds, and to further love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).

But often times it can become easy to confuse a misconception with the truth when we neglect to analyze our theology. Our human nature motivates us to adopt ideas and views that align with our wishes. In other words, our preferences inspire us to forge a theology to justify our positions instead of allowing our positions to be derivative of our theology. We have it backwards, and too often it goes unnoticed.

This is dangerous grounds for the Christian. Here we can unknowingly allow ourselves to fall prey to the wiles of the wicked one, and thereby do his bidding in lieu of the Lord’s. A careful reading of the Scriptures makes us aware that Lucifer uses means of counterfeiting the goodness of God to create snares for humanity. Truly, there is no greater lie than misconstruing a truth and using it against itself. By placing a component of the truth at the surface, people become deceived of the lie that lurks beneath.

There is a reason that Paul warns us that Lucifer masquerades as an angel of light, and that his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Though even the servants of the Most High can become deceived when the flesh overcomes the spirit.

It is for this reason that we must always be alert and sober-minded to God’s holy love. If love in and of itself goes unchecked, we may unknowingly embrace a darker love masquerading as righteous love.

Being in Love with Love

It is time that we realize that love is only an attribute of God. I have heard many people express that God is love when in fact He is much more than love. We cannot reduce God down to a single emotion and deprive Him of His full character. By doing so we champion love instead of God Himself, and this simply will not do.

Glorifying love may sound half reasonable at first, but there is a danger here in assuming that love is synonymous with God. A.W. Tozer explains it well:

Equating love with God is a major mistake which has produced much unsound religious philosophy and has brought forth a spate of vaporous poetry completely out of accord with the Holy Scriptures and altogether of another climate from that of historic Christianity.

Had the apostle declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to infer that God is what love is. If literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is. If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. Thus we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for God (Tozer, 103).

Misunderstanding love as being God Himself instead of an attribute of God creates several problems. The fundamental problem is that God is supplanted with love. If love is thought to be God and God love, then we have created for ourselves an idol to worship because love has been put on the throne of God and made equal with Him.

This of course creates numerous conflicts and inaccuracies in how we understand and love God. And how we understand and love God impacts every facet of our faith. It is detrimental that we have a proper understanding of the fullness of God less we propagate these errors and allow them to breed in the Christian community.

The first problem that occurs once we put love on the throne of God is that we begin to view the world through the eyes of love instead of the eyes of the Lord. To be sure, there is no doubt that love is good, and that God loves all of His creatures and children. However, our Lord views the world through a lens of holiness, justice, righteousness, and mercy just as much as love. To ignore this fact is to become blind to the Lord’s expectations for us. We begin to assume that love is all that matters, and therefore we ignore our responsibility to seek holy justice instead of worldly justice, holy righteousness instead of self-righteousness, and a mercy which prepares people for the next life instead of a mercy that coddles sinful nature.

Reducing God to love is a prevalent reason that the doctrine of antinomianism first emerged. In this view, there is no longer any regard for the righteousness of God since grace is thought to cleanse all sin by default, and forevermore, regardless of the actions of Man. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace since it assumes holiness without human participation and takes advantage of God’s goodness. 

Paul warns us not to adhere to this theology when he explained, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2).

God commands us time and again to be holy people. He would not go through such pains to admonish us in this way if He did not expect us to participate in the process of sanctification. This does not mean that we earn our salvation through legalistic means. It merely calls us to action by surrendering ourselves to God. By surrendering, Christians invite the Spirit of God to empower us so that we might overcome temptation and sin which thereby leads to sanctification through grace.

Jesus also tells us that we must obey the commandments of God:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:16-19).

The two great commandments given to us by Jesus to love God and neighbor are laws themselves that must be followed. Notice that Jesus used the word “greatest” for said commandments which implies that other commandments must still be obeyed. This is also inferred when Jesus says that all the other laws are hinged upon these two. He also says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (Matt. 23:2-3).

This all amounts to the fact that God’s love does not make us exempt from righteous living. Nor does it give us license to condone the sins of others in the name of love. Righteous love holds us to a higher standard. Indeed, it is not love at all to ignore our role in holding someone’s hand through the process of grace, or failing to encourage their own responsibility to live holy lives.

The second problem with idolizing love can be seen in postmodern theology. Today, there is a growing interest in propounding a theology of total and inclusive love which does not admonish. Of course, proponents of this would not use the word admonish, and would rather supplant any form of reproof or warning with a wholesale acceptance of a person regardless of their spiritual condition.

The Church is in danger of confusing worldly love with God’s righteous love. It is quickly becoming the norm to use words such as tolerance and inclusiveness to describe the appropriate way in which Christians ought to love people. The problem is that such terms reflect a theology which promotes love that accepts sin. And the moment other Christians begin to admonish the sinful condition of people they are deemed unloving.

There are two problems with this line of thinking. First, most of us intuitively know that it is quite possible to love people regardless of the sin in their lives. The Scriptures tell us that we have all been born in sin and are by nature children of wrath (Ps. 51:5, 58:3; Eph. 2:3). And we read in 1 John that Christians continue to struggle with sin even after being made into new creations (1:8-9). Even so, Christians share a supernatural love for one another and God’s creatures. Although sin runs deep in our own lives, and in the lives of our biological and spiritual families, we share an unmistakable love for one another.

Further, the Christian does not witness to the world with hopes that they may love unbelievers once their sins have been forgiven. But it is the very nature of righteous love that leads Christians to take such action in the first place.

It should now be clear that it is not only possible to love people regardless of their sinful nature, but something commonly practiced by Christians today. This makes sense once we recall that God first loved us despite our sin, and that we are made in His image. So loving others despite their sins is simply a reflection of our Father. Therefore, the old platitude that we can love the sinner without loving the sin remains true despite any sensationalism that argues the contrary.

But how do we love the sinner without loving the sin? This brings me to my second rebuttal. I would argue that it is actually unloving to embrace a person along with their sin. In order to truly ensure the well-being of a person battling sin, it is our responsibility to help them overcome any sin in their lives in order that they may take hold of the peace and joy God offers them in this life and the next. That is what righteous love is all about.

Righteous love does more than just include people in the Church, but rather helps people become the church. It helps cultivate a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ so that by His Spirit, people are able to grow in grace and overcome the bondage of sin. Inclusive love, in the sense of many in the Church today, merely allows people to be a part of the church. This does more harm than good because it deprives people of a rich relationship with Christ.

This form of worldly love can also be motivated by selfishness which is the third problem with idolizing love. The reason for complete inclusiveness in the Church can be a defense mechanism that protects Christians from bearing the hostile backlash of secular society. The world is at its heart very selfish. And because of that selfishness, the world demands that everyone be allowed to live life however they see fit without any universal moral standards imposed upon them.

At first it may seem that the world values the differences in others. But the truth of the matter is that people want to suppress any brand of morality or truth that condemns certain thoughts or behaviors. It is not difficult to understand why: People want everyone to accept all things so that they themselves will be accepted in all things. This mentality is completely devoid of altruism.

It is important to understand that the world separate from God can possess and express love in many forms. At times it resembles the love of God since the Holy Spirit is present in the world and working on the hearts of both believers and unbelievers. At other times, this love takes on a darker counterfeit form which can be selfish and wicked.

We would do well to remember that Lucifer and a third of Heaven’s legion were banished due to this darkened and selfish love for oneself. History is replete with examples of those who showed love for oneself or something unholy. Adolf Hitler passionately loved Nazi Germany, but harbored hatred for the Jewish people. And beyond individuals, history has witnessed societies and cultures rise and fall which loved the elite and the state, but oppressed the underprivileged and marginalized.

This rings true even today as we watch terrorists wreak havoc on the world due to their delusions of love and fallacious understanding of God. Here we have a vivid example of how love goes awry when it is not grounded in God’s holiness. Many of us make the mistake of solely attributing such acts to hatred. However, even more than hatred, is an unholy love at play here. For hatred can fester up inside people, but love inspires and calls them to take action. To be sure, the love of hatred is far worse than any hatred for love.

A forth problem that arises from idolizing love is the sin of misplaced love. What I mean to say here is that we as Christians can easily focus our love on our blessings instead of God. Instead of selfish love which is self-serving, love is misplaced by putting God in the backseat for other people or blessings. For example, many people do not realize that it is quite possible – and dare I say common – to love their own family in ways that become a form of worship.

This is the warning Paul gives us when he says, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:8). Many apostles thought that they would witness the seconding coming of Christ. But that is beside the point. Paul still means to warn us of the temptation of becoming immersed in our families to the point that we neglect our relationship with God and the responsibilities that ensue. It is not that God does not want us to marry or have families. It is more a warning of priorities: God must always come first.

Anytime we put something between ourselves and God we are in fact committing the sin of idolatry. Many people that fall victim to this idolatry are unaware that they are in the wrong because they mean well. Those in the Church can easily be caught in this snare of idolatry when they love their pastor, responsibilities, building, local church traditions, and so forth more than God.

The Lord must always come first in all that we do and believe. He has not left us any room for compromise – not because He is selfish, but because He knows that there is no greater blessing than to be in love with the very Author of love. In brief, mankind would not have the capacity to love if it were not first expressed to humanity and a fundamental attribute of God’s divine image in which we have been created.

Righteous Love

We too easily forge our own idols. And every person who has made an idol or false god does so out of good intentions – albeit motivated by selfishness – no matter how preposterous and misguided these idols are. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the most beautiful aspects of life can be twisted and abused to the point that it no longer represents the purity of its true nature. God is good. Love is good. And God has given us love to share and use in whatever way our free-will dictates.

The problem is that mankind is corrupt and broken. No matter how much we desire to be wholly spirit, we are still in part made of flesh. For this reason, humanity can corrupt love. And since it is possible for love to be corrupted, we as Christians must scrutinize our theology and spiritual conditions daily. It is only then that we will know whether or not we are living righteously. And to live righteously we must love righteously.

Righteous love is grounded in God’s holiness. It is a love that seeks to glorify God by growing in grace. It is a love that surrenders to the Most High so that His love shines through us in lieu of any other form of love. It is a love that looks beyond the now and towards the future for both our spiritual kin and those who have yet to embrace the forgiveness and sanctification of God. It suffers the world but rejoices in Christ. It bears shame while receiving honor from God. It puts others first and expects nothing in return.

We are all aware of our paradigm for love which is so eloquently written by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (13:4-8).

It is important to notice that Paul makes a powerful statement in this wonderful passage. He says that “love rejoices with the truth.” Here we can understand that righteous love is in accord with biblical truth. It cannot be separate and retain its holiness. For if truth is also an attribute of God then it must align with His love.

And now that we understand that truth and love are married together, it is our responsibility to ensure that our love is an expression of God’s truth for the world and not merely a simple emotion of acceptance. Our responsibility is to love righteously for the glory of God and edification of His creatures and children. If we fail to do this, then we fail to truly love as God would love.


Bibliography

Tozer, A. W. The Knowledge of the Holy. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1961. Print.