Of course the term ‘angry watchbloggers’ hadn’t been invented during John Stott’s lifetime. But the type certainly already existed. And in an example of how there is nothing new under the sun, he had a rebuke for them which rings true today.
Similarly modern progressive Christians sometimes don’t realise that they are echoing similar movements in previous generations. In Stotts day these would have been called liberals. And Stott has a strong message for those of them who in their effort to be modern have jettisoned the truth.
For those who don’t know of him, most would credit Stott with being one of three dominant figures who between them revived the post war Western church, and essentially forged the evangelical movement.
Evangelicals would basically become defined as those who valued the teaching of Stott and/or Lloyd-Jones, and clung to the evangelistic gospel of Billy Graham.
The quote I will share below is brilliant. And shows not just the diagnosis of the two groups of people I outline, but also the roots of the problem with each, and it even offers a clear remedy to bring balance.
Lest you simply see this as an opportunity to finger point, the truth is we all tend towards one end of this spectrum or the other. Perhaps if we are confused we even swing between the two. In this era of partisanship in the Church and Society, the message below is vital for us all to hear and obey.
You and I may not be a watchblogger or troll but perhaps we are just a bit too abrasive in our communication. The secret to becoming more winsome? According to Stott it is simply to learn to be more loving.But love taken to an extreme jettisons the truth as rapidly as sailors leaving a sinking ship. If the motive is simply to be kind and to not offend, the risk is that we become weak, soft, and simply don’t believe anything any more.
Just in case you still think these tendencies are new, Stott brilliantly shows us their solution in his study of Ephesians 4:15 in which we are told to speak the truth in love.
Perhaps this is one of the most important verses for the modern Christian to learn from whichever side of the fence they tend towards.
Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth’, and his firstfruit is ‘love’. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.
John Stott, Message of Ephesians, p172
Footnote: Thanks to Tim Challies for tweeting part of this quote and letting me know where it came from.
“Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if it is not softened by love.” (John Stott) pic.twitter.com/uGSh8RXK6u
— challies (@challies) May 5, 2018
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