Often I will get a fellow believer complain to me. They do not like the fact that I raise certain issues which they would rather just ignore. They do not like it when I point out the evils of abortion, or stealth jihad, or sexual slavery, or the radical homosexual agenda.
They certainly don’t want to see pictures of aborted babies, or of churches burned down by the Islamists, or of children being forced into prostitution. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ seems to be their way of operating. Now that might be fine for some non-believers, but for anyone who dares to call himself a follower of Jesus Christ that will not do at all.
Yet I get this all the time from some Christians. And they are quite keen to Bible-bash me, especially with one particular verse: Philippians 4:8. This famous passage says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Now is that a good Christian thing to do? Of course it is. But does that mean we just pretend there is nothing ugly, evil and ungodly out there in the world? Does it mean we just think happy thoughts all day long like the New Agers want us to do? Does it mean we simply ignore the sin and suffering which occurs all around us?
No is the obvious answer. Those who glibly quote this verse as they refuse to face reality are guilty of one of two things. Either they simply pull this passage out of biblical context, and overlook all the other verses which tell us to be aware of and involved in what is happening, or they are steeped in unbiblical “positive confession” theology.
If the former, we must remind these folks that this verse was never meant to imply that we just live in la-la land where everything is rosy and there is no evil. The truth is, we are clearly told that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).
How can we fight sin, the flesh, the world, and the devil, if we try to bury our heads in the sand? Sure, we are not to glorify evil, relish in it, amplify it, or overdo in our exposure to it, but the biblical response is not to just pretend evil is not happening.
And for those who get this unhelpful thinking from the bogus “positive confession” movement, all I can say is look here, since I have already spoken to this sham teaching at length:
These misguided believers would of course have real troubles with all God’s great heroes through the ages, whether the prophets or the great reformers of church history. They obviously never read someone like Jeremiah or Ezekiel. After all, they are such bearers of bad news, and are constantly speaking of sin, idolatry, rebellion, and coming judgment. Not very positive stuff there.
And they must really hate someone like William Wilberforce: all that talk about the horrors of slavery, the treatment of blacks, and the terrible conditions of slaves, etc. ‘I can’t allow my pristine mind and spirit to be contaminated by all that negative thought and reality. Phil 4:8 just won’t allow me to entertain such thoughts.’
I have even had these people tell me they get “sad” when they see some of the stuff I post here and there. They say they don’t want to be sad by seeing and reading about this stuff, and they don’t really enjoy folks like me even raising these issues.
Well, respectfully, I have a few words for such folks: I am sorry you were made sad by all this. We can just all go back to our little closed world and see no evil. We can all just keep hiding our heads in the sand and pretend none of this stuff is happening. We can all just live in our little isolated world where we are oblivious to what is happening around us.
That is one way to proceed. But of course it is not the way of Jesus Christ. It is not how a biblical Christian should act. We are called to be salt and light in a very needy world. That means getting our hands dirty and working against evil. And to do that, we must be aware of what is happening in our world.
Pretending all these evil things are not taking place helps no one. It only helps the enemy, and allows more evil, more injustice, more abuse, and more suffering to take place. Thus those who don’t want to know about it are actually complicit in evil. They are allowing this great evil to take place.
It is just like all those Germans – including German “Christians” – who just did not want to know what was happening in those concentration camps. They probably consoled themselves – and deluded themselves – by repeating Phil 4:8 over and over again, like a mantra.
To be a genuine Christian influence in a very needy world means confronting evil – not hiding our heads in the sand. It means being willing to have our hearts broken with what breaks the heart of God. It certainly does not mean living in our little spiritual bubble where we ignore all the suffering and evil taking place everywhere around us.
Indeed, I suspect that some of these confused Christians who seek to hide behind Phil. 4:8 are really not as spiritual as they think they are. They may in fact just be apathetic, indifferent and unloving – even un-Christlike. They really don’t give a rip about all the evil around them, and they use passages like this as a cheap excuse to get completely uninvolved in all the suffering and sin of our world.
They are really like all the religious Pharisees who, when they saw a needy man lying on the road, crossed over to the other side of the road to avoid the problem, to not contaminate themselves, to not be “sad,” and to not have any “negative thoughts”.
These folks pretend they are keeping themselves pure and unspoiled from the world, but all they are doing is telling their Lord they have no intention of loving their neighbour as themself, and have no intention of obeying the command to be salt and light.
Let me close by offering some incisive quotes here by past reformers – both Christian and non-Christian:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr)
“The world is too dangerous to live in – not because of people who do evil, but because of people who sit and let it happen”. (Albert Einstein)
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel)
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” (Elie Wiesel)
?”A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” (John Stuart Mill)
“The hottest level in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in a moral crisis.” (Dante’s Inferno)
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” (Suffragette Susan B. Anthony)
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” (Abolitionist William Wilberforce)
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Martyred Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“At the final bar of judgment, when those of us who are Christians stand face to face with our Maker, the gravest charge that will be made against us will be that we were so unconcerned. We lived at a time and in an age when the very foundations of civilization were being shaken, when the very world in which we lived was rocking, when we witnessed things such as men have never seen before. We saw the spiritual and moral, as well as the political, declension all around us, and yet we did nothing about it. We were apathetic and unconcerned. We did not feel a great solicitude that would not allow us to rest by day or by night.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
But let me finish with two brief words of Scripture which we all certainly need to take to heart:
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see.” (Lamentations 1:12)
“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:16)