David George Moore. Dave blogs at www.twocities.org.
I had some fruitful conversations about my recent piece on the Gospel Coalition . I am grateful for the many good exchanges and trust there can be greater understanding even amidst all our differences.
No matter what Christian tradition we align with, or group we associate with, all of us should consider the following questions. Over the years I have sought to ask myself these kinds of things on a regular basis:
*Am I fearful of speaking up due to the fear of losing my livelihood? As a pastor I regularly reminded myself that the folks at church were not responsible for paying me. They were God’s instruments to be sure, but God was in charge of my well-being. I am glad for a father who instilled in me the virtue of doing the right thing no matter the cost.
*Am I fearful of speaking up due to jeopardizing opportunities of ministry in certain venues? Much could be said about this, but the reality is that many don’t press important issues over fear of losing out on speaking and writing opportunities.
Years ago, I talked with a guy who lost his job at a big, Christian publishing house because he protested them taking on a book which contained heresy. The best-selling author stayed and the editor left. It cost him in some significant and very tangible ways, but it did not cost him his integrity.
*Am I fearful of speaking up because I truly like these people and don’t want to lose my “community?” This is understandable as indeed all of these struggles are, but we must ask how good the friends really are if any pushback and challenge is viewed as a threat to the friendship.
Personally, I don’t mind hearty disagreements at all and have had them with many friends. I do mind when a lack of respect, not actively listening to one another, setting up straw-man points, ad hominems, or the all too common practice of passive-aggressive behavior takes place.
*Am I fearful of speaking up because I don’t want to be tagged “a critical spirit?” Labels can be lethal. I have seen the “critical spirit” label wielded with wicked efficiency.
To be candid, I have been guilty for labeling some “company men” who may not have deserved it. Others probably did, but that still is not the best way to communicate!
In either case, we ought to be willing to be misunderstood, but actively seeking to understand others better. I am absolutely convinced this is greatly aided by proximity. If I don’t know someone it is easy to label them in an unfavorable light. If I do get to know them, we might still disagree, but be less keen on categorizing one another with our unflattering arsenal of terms.
One example is the mea culpa a popular blogger gave over his less than flattering review of Ann Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts. Tim Challies candidly registered his dismay over how he treated Voskamp. And it was Voskamp’s invitation to Challies and his family for a meal with the Voskamp family which got that ball rolling. So proximity is powerful. Repeat it often!
My go to verses which have helped me better navigate the choppy waters of simultaneously not fearing man, yet remembering the need to remain a man growing in peace with others whenever possible are:
“Stop regarding man, who breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” (Isa. 2:22)
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19)