Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Bad Manners or Bad Truth. . .
The world around us has come to judge manners above everything else and then to define manners not as politeness but as approval. So some insist that it is bad manners to speak of something as sin or someone as a sinner. Being nice is more important than being right. Good manners means treating people with whose lifestyles you disagree with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Anything else is just plain mean.
Let me say upfront I agree that we ought to learn how to be polite to one another -- even toward those with whom we disagree. That said, what good comes from acting like we approve of things which we do not approve? Are we being nicer to the person by ignoring the false truth or heresy they confess? Are we being nicer to the sinner by not identifying the sin? I am not at all suggesting that we be rude in our condemnation of sin or in our call to repentance. Indeed, there is no room for smugness or superiority. To say we are all sinners is not to make light of sin or to dismiss it but to admit the seriousness of our fallen condition.
Christian manners have come to mean that we ignore those who live together without marriage, those who break their marriage vows, those who make homosexuality and heterosexuality equivalent, and the culture of anything goes consensual sexual behavior. There are no good manners in telling lies: as Scripture says, the truth is to be spoken in love. Love cares about people who live lies (gay or straight). The great equalizer is not the acceptance of all kinds of sin. No, indeed, the great equalizer is the call to repentance, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
I will agree that when the Church picks and chooses the sins to preach about or the sinners to call to repentance we do a grave disservice to the Gospel. Yet we do the very same disservice when we purposefully refrain from addressing the sinner with the truth of Scripture out of fear we will offend them or sound bad in the face of a society ever more tolerant of moral failure.
It may be easy to think or speak as if this were all about sex. It is not. It is about morality built upon rights and wrongs. It is about God's Law which refuses to be diluted or changed by the whims and preferences of time and culture. We could be addressing everything from vulgar speech to callous indifference to truth and to the needs of the neighbor. It is not all about sex although, as we learn from Eden, sex seems to the first place to start when we consider our fallen condition.
Either the Church is right in what it teaches about human sexuality, or it is wrong. Either the Church is speaking the higher way of love which is more than desire or the Church is speaking lies to its people. Even though a great number of folks are convinced that the truth is offensive and that mere politeness requires us to hold our tongue, the Church is showing the utmost disrespect by failing to be honest with those who violate the truth with regard to the evil of abortion, the nobility of virginity, the sanctity of life, and the self-control that places limits upon the free reign of desire. It may well be that the day is soon coming when the Church will find the Gospel as hate speech and traditional morality to be judgemental and disrespectful.
The truth is not always respectable or respectful in a world set against the enduring truth of God and His Word. It is an inconvenient truth that we cannot approach every sin and every sinner with kid gloves. I am not countenancing being rude or disrespectful but suggesting rather that God's Word will be found intolerable and untenable in a world set adrift from that Word of Life. I am not being prescient or even wise, just being realistic. The Gospel will always be judged offensive as long as do not believe in sin and therefore find a Savior superfluous to our modern lives. So for this reason the Church will be required to speak the Law as well as the Gospel or risk being found unfaithful before the judgement seat of Christ. We cannot avoid it but neither should we work against the power of that Word by being offensive on purpose.