Expecting a person in your culture to understand and accept your viewpoint without taking the time to understand their perspective and how they became who they are will short-circuit whatever gospel advancement you hope to make in their lives.
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The period of social unrest our nation experienced in the sixties and seventies was, in many ways, a watershed time. We have been forever changed by the advent of the movements that were birthed then.
Many of the changes, to be sure, were negative ones. Abortion on demand, the breakdown of the family due to radical feminism, and the onset of rampant drug abuse have damaged us to the core, and it’s difficult to see how we as a nation will ever recover this side of heaven.
In a sincere attempt to be a prophetic voice to the culture, though, many Christians have developed a tendency to overcorrect problems and broad-brush people in a way that’s spectacularly unhelpful.
Collectively, we seem to have lost our gospel worldview that is obligated to oppose not only the societal ills I’ve described but also the legitimate injustices that make people feel like they have no choice but to act the way they do. My brothers, this ought not to be so. Let me help you understand what I mean.
I have listened to a dear sister in Christ (who happens to be black) tell of having to drill her godly, intelligent sons about what they should say and do—and, conversely, what they should never, ever, under any circumstances, say or do—when they are pulled over while driving in their middle-class neighborhood.
She also has to help them guard their hearts against sin when people in the church say that if black men don’t want to be beaten by cops, maybe they should consider obeying the law. If she speaks about this in our theological camp, she is in danger of being called a snowflake or asocial justice warrior by people who will assume she wants to find her identity in her victimhood, which is not the case at all.
She seeks unity, not division, but it’s easier to react to her and emote than it is to listen, empathize, and think deeply about the state we’re in as a church. What if my friend were an unbeliever instead of a mature, godly woman who refuses to return evil for evil? How would you expect her to react to this kind of treatment from God’s people?
The hardest part of all this is that conservative believers would interpret her (likely sinful) response as hatred for God and His Word instead of as partially righteous anger against their rash judgment of her and her family.
Adam, Where Are You?
My mother-in-law remembers her dad coming home with a new alarm clock when she was a girl.“It seems complicated,” he said, “but the salesman assured me even a woman can run it.” I am adamantly against the feminist movement and its rotten fruit, but I understand the anger and hurt that gave rise to it.
The irony of what I just shared is that feminism is operating on borrowed capital: the freedom they enjoy is a distinctly Christian idea. Wherever in the world women have rights, they have them because the gospel of Jesus Christ has had a profound impact on the culture that they live in.
The places around the globe where women are still viewed as property are governed by non-Christian worldviews. In Jesus’s day, devout Jewish men thanked the Lord every day that they weren’t Gentiles, slaves, or women. Women could not own property then, nor were their testimonies accepted in a court of law.
In the midst of that, my Lord declared women equal with men and allowed them the privilege of being the first to bear testimony of His Resurrection. (Nobody believed them, but still.) I love Him for that.
The church, not the culture, should have been at the forefront of what happened in the sixties, being the first to declare the implications of what it means that there is no slave nor free, no Jew nor gentile, no male nor female in Christ. We should have been the ones defining the terms and setting the boundaries of what could have radically changed the culture for the good.
Instead, we have reacted—badly—to what they have done, and have spent the last several decades defining ourselves apophatically with regard to the culture. We are so busy being “not them” that we’ve forgotten who we are.
Truth, Not Feelings
I love my tribe. I love our emphasis on the gospel. I love men who stand for truth and refuse to be moved. I grieve that our anger and fear toward feminism has caused us to put so much emphasis on women staying in their lane that we are unnecessarily wounding women who are genuinely confused, women who would benefit from deeper theology but won’t come near us because of our condescension.
It’s a pity the law doesn’t allow me to be merciful. – Javert, Les Miserables
Social justice folks are sometimes willing to sacrifice truth. Conservative Christians can neglect love and compassion. Should we really be arguing over which one is worse? Can we nourish and cherish our sisters, meeting them where they are instead of berating them for not being all they should be (Romans 2:3)?
Once again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak clearly about the evils of any issue we face. For the record, I have actually told people they were bearing the image of Satan (liar, slanderer, accuser), and had them thank me afterward for loving them well. Truth and love are not mutually exclusive.
The social justice warriors are not the only side of this conversation whose responses are driven by emotion. And tone policing isn’t their exclusive domain, either. May I appeal to you, no matter what side of the debate of the day you’re on, to honor God and other people in your speech?
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And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24–26)