At a Turning Point gathering on December 19, 2021, Donald Trump, Jr. drew wild applause from conservates, many of whom would describe themselves as “Christian conservatives” when he said the following.
“We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference — I understand the mentality — but it’s gotten us nothing. Okay? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.”
If you have any doubt that the modern conservative movement is divorcing itself from any biblical moorings, realize that this conservative crowd cheered when Trump told them that the words of Jesus just do not work. We have to fight fire with fire, get in the mud, and be willing to use more vengeful tactics to get the job done.
Power politics has been a staple in SBC life for a long time. While I supported the Conservative Resurgence, there were actions that were hardly in line with the Fruit of the Spirit that were excused because “this is a war” and “the other side did the same thing.”
We can debate the propriety of certain political tactics at SBC meetings, but what is often called “the politics of personal destruction” should have no place. We watch as people use social media to destroy those with whom they disagree.
Two Undeniable Facts
We can hardly argue that there is false doctrine in the SBC and in the Christian world. Jesus promised us that false messiahs, false prophets, and false teachers would come and he always speaks truth. If we would be faithful to our Savior, we must hold fast to the truth, preach God’s word carefully, and confront falsehood appropriately.
There are also bad actors in the church and in our denomination. There are wolves among the sheep, people who are not here to lead the sheep and feed the sheep, but to lunch on the sheep and use them to build their platforms.
Anyone who denies the existence of false doctrine and bad actors is foolish, blind to truth.
One More Crucial Fact
Having said that, many in the Christian world today seem to have defined Christian living as confronting bad actors and correcting false doctrine, as though the sum total of discipleship is calling out those with whom we disagree. They see themselves as warriors on the wall fighting off the barbarian hordes. Perusing “evangelical Twitter” will both sully your soul and lead to the conclusion that large segments among us believe that criticism, confrontation, hostility, denunciation, and condemnation are the true fruit of the Spirit.
I raised four children and, including those buns currently in ovens, have ten grandchildren. I have had to speak words of correction and confrontation often. (Back in my day, we did a little more than speak words of confrontation, but we will let that sleeping dog lie now.) I was willing to confront sin and correct error when it arose but I did not delude myself that raising kids was ALL about that. I loved them and enjoyed them and encouraged them. Correction and confrontation were a small part of raising them.
Correction of sin and confrontation of error is a part of discipleship but when we make it the gist of discipleship, when we give ourselves over to the ministry of “calling-out” we will have an unbalanced, unhealthy, oppressive culture that is not honoring to the Lord and is spiritually unproductive.
Get to Your Point, Dave!
Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11)
Consider this act. Peter was confronted with a grievous act. They were about to arrest Jesus, so what did he do? He picked up a sword to fight! His heart was in the right place – he was defending Jesus. The simple problem was that he was using a sword when Jesus had another weapon in mind.
Jesus planned to defeat evil by being nailed to a CROSS and Peter’s sword could do nothing to accomplish the work of God. Jesus’ ways are not our ways.
It is my fear that we are seeking to fight the great cosmic battle with the weapons of the world. We take our cues from secular politics or the business world when our model ought to be the Cross of Christ.
Paul left no doubt in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
What are those weapons? Of course, the proclamation of God’s word, of his whole truth is the key. We capture rebellious thoughts and teach obedience. It is a mistake to assume, though, that this is about teaching some sort of systematic theology to destroy Satan. In fact, a few chapters earlier, Paul had already described these weapons.
We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.
The purity that is produced in us by the Spirit, the knowledge that banishes Satan’s lies, the spiritual fruit of patience and kindness which replaces anger and vengeance, the truth of God applied to our lives – these are the weapons of warfare that the Spirit of Christ gives us that have real power to make a real difference.
Let’s Wrap It Up, Dave
Whatever. Get off my back. I guess I will finish up.
We are generally fighting the right battle but we are using the wrong weapons. We are seeking to make disciples and build churches but using the wrong weapons. We have gathered our cache of weapons from works of the flesh, from the business world, from the political realm, from the ways of this world and we wonder why we are losing ground.
The weapons of our warfare are spiritual – that means we do not fight the way this world fights. We fight as Jesus fought. He came to seek and to save, to lay down his life. He called us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. He modeled a life of love and Paul told us that without love, we are just a chorus of banging gongs and clanging cymbals. We fight with forgiveness and patience and joy and gentleness. We fight the power of darkness with the fruit of the Spirit.
We cannot continue to pick up the weapons of the flesh and expect to win the battles that matter.