I am sure that I am not alone in my weariness to the growing profanity, crudity and incivility that is everywhere in American life today. The public square is getting crowded with comedians who aren’t funny, politicians who really don’t serve their people, and many talking heads on TV who appear to have limited vocabularies and yet speak authoritatively on most everything. So, what should be our response to all this verbal sludge? Perhaps we should find a comfortable cave to retreat to. Maybe an armed assault on the local TV station or government building would work. Would a billboard blitz showing that the other side is made up of mental midgets be helpful?
And while we initially resist the non-combative words of Jesus’ apostles, they do have insights we should listen to. It is very important to remember that these believers lived in a world where the less than nice Romans dominated; and where much evil was clearly on steroids.
First, a word from Peter. He said: “Keep your behavior excellent among the gentiles (unsaved) so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of YOUR GOOD DEEDS, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation….such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:12, 15)
The response to the slander of hateful folks (who Peter says really are ignorant) is to work diligently at doing good deeds in our sphere of influence. (Jesus also indicated that our good works makes our heavenly Father look good before others. Matt. 5:16). So apparently, the will of God would not include an armed assault on the TV station and should not be considered. But what we should consider is how we might proactively be expanding our good deeds in our circle of contacts and influence. In this regard, what might we begin to do that we are not presently doing?
Second, the Apostle Paul gives needed counsel to believers when they find themselves in discussions about critical matters, such as good and evil, truth and error, right and wrong.
He notes in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 that “the bondservant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Four key matters for us to think about. First, we cannot retreat to that comfortable cave after all, but must engage the falsehoods of our day. If we don’t, who will? Second, we are to be prepared to intelligently discuss the matters of truth and error, right and wrong. We might need to do some homework. Third, we just have to check our attitudes. Responding like the ones in opposition to us is off limits and ultimately counter-productive. So, nasty billboards, shouting real loud or abusive speech are not part of the approach we are to take. And fourth, a much needed reminder from the Apostle about the reality behind all this. There is an Evil One (so said Jesus in John 17:15) and it is wise to recognize the ultimate source of what we see in our present world as originating in this malevolent being. So, while other options might be more appealing to me, I must do things the biblical way and represent Christ well in this crude culture.