People are going to hell, the church is being racked with heresies and overrun with sin, yet many Christians are worried only about the “tone” that some believers have as they seek to warn about all this. No wonder the church keeps losing. Why do I think these same snowflakes would be offended by the prophets, the disciples, and even Jesus himself?
I and others who have a watchman on the wall sort of ministry seem to get this all the time. We could be talking about millions of babies being killed in the womb, streets being filled with blood because of Islamic jihad, or the destruction of God’s institutions of marriage and family, but many Christians could not care less.
But they do seem to care greatly that we use some strong words now and then. They will say nothing about the great evils of the day, and the great apostasy taking place in the church, but boy oh boy, they will come out of the woodwork and attack you ferociously, accusing you of being unloving and unChristlike and all the rest.
They do not seem to be bothered in the least that the church in the West is going down the tubes, blatant heresy is being proclaimed, and overt sin is running amok in our fellowships. But if you dare to use forceful language to warn about this, they will go apoplectic and come out of hibernation and attack you and denounce you in no uncertain terms.
This happens all the time, especially on the social media. Folks that you simply never hear from will all of a sudden turn up and blast you, accusing you of being hateful and judgmental and mean and…. Um, I may have said this before: when those who never interact with you about anything suddenly show up to slam you and attack you, they are not exactly my idea of a friend, nor of a fellow Christian. They much more belong in the troll category.
But as I say, this happens to me and others all the time. One of the latest examples of this involved some articles of mine that resulted in some folks – once again – saying that they did not like my “tone”. Some even said that they basically agreed with my articles but still did not like my tone. One said, “The tone is really dogmatic and dismissive”. On and on it goes. So, are they right?
They could be. I may have overstepped the mark at times, and I apologise if I have done so. But I suppose I can always try harder to be “nicer’ and seek not to rock the boat or upset anyone. I can throw out all colourful and vibrant language and just use bland, nondescript wording. I can water everything down to such a point that no one would ever take offence again.
That is one option. But perhaps another option would be for some of these wilted dandelions to toughen up a bit and get used to the real world. Instead of taking offence at everything while doing little or nothing for the Kingdom, maybe they should take offence at what really matters. Maybe they should stop dwelling on their hurt feelings.
Indeed, why do I suspect that many of these critics may not be overly familiar with their own Bibles? Even a cursory reading of Scripture will review countless cases of people having a less than polite and genteel tone. Over and over again we find the prophets, the disciples, and even Jesus himself with an “attitude”.
They routinely had a “tone” that was hardly always polite and men-pleasing. They frequently offended people and upset people not just in what they said, but often in how they said it. They used strong language, they were not afraid of offending folks if the gospel was at stake, and they did not really care about hurting people’s feelings.
But I find this getting worse by the day. We expect the victimisation cult and offence industry to be found in the secular world. But now I find all over the place the same thing occurring among Christians. They seem to be offended by everything, and the slightest use of forceful language sends them into a tizzy.
Um, I don’t think these believers who are so easily hurt and offended would have done well had they lived in biblical times. How many of these Christian critics would have told Jesus, “Well, I may agree with what you say, but you really must watch your tone. You seem so harsh and unloving and mean.”
Consider just a few – of the many – things that Jesus said, and these only from Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Matthew 12:39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
Matthew 15:7 You hypocrites!
Matthew 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
Matthew 15:16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
Matthew 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Matthew 17:17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied,
Matthew 23:16 Woe to you, blind guides!
Matthew 23:19 You blind men!
Matthew 23:27 You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs!
Matthew 23:33 You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
On and on it goes. And this is just a small sampling of his strong rhetoric and his cutting remarks. How many believers today would be shocked at his harsh tones and his ‘unloving’ words? Many Christians today seem to think they are more Christlike than Christ was!
And how many of these easily triggered Christians would have strongly denounced Isaiah or Jeremiah for their strong and seemingly unloving language? How many of these snowflake believers would have condemned Paul for being way too harsh, forceful, and lacking in lurve?
Why do I suspect that when I get told by some folks that they refuse to read my stuff because my style offends them that they are really just offering cheap excuses here? For many, their minds are already made up, and they are quite happy to embrace false teaching and justify sinful lifestyles. They likely have no intention of hearing the biblical case on these matters anyway, so all this becomes a cheap excuse to refuse to hear a point of view they just don’t like.
Elijah mocked the Baalists. Isaiah ripped into the idolaters. Jesus pronounced shocking woes on his opponents. Paul cursed the false teachers and called them every name under the sun. The numerous examples of this are found throughout Scripture. But our generation of easily offended believers would likely rebuke all of these folks – and others – for being unloving, offensive and unChristlike.
But I have written about all this often before. See these articles where I offer plenty of biblical examples of this:
As I said at the end of that second piece:
Many other examples could be given. Suffice it to say that the use of rhetorical devices to strengthen one’s case is found throughout Scripture. The question remains, however: should we make use of such rhetoric today? The biblical writers were inspired in what they said, while we are merely perspired.
So care must be taken in imitating them here. But it seems that if it were wrong in principle to make use of such language and rhetoric, then God would not have used it, Jesus would not have used it, nor would have any other biblical writer. The fact that they all do indicates that it is not wrong as such.
Now I write all this not to encourage a generation of Christian writers to resort to heated polemics, to go for the jugular, to become H. L. Menckens or Ann Coulters. I am quite aware of our obligations to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), to show gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15-16), and to let our speech be always seasoned with salt (Col. 4:5-6). We dare not ignore or downplay such vital injunctions.
All I am trying to do in this piece is to show that in many places the use of strong rhetoric is clearly found in Scripture, and that in general, a polemical, argumentative style is quite often used. For example, Jesus and the early disciples made frequent use of the challenge-riposte paradigm, common in first-century Palestine, in which one tried to undermine the honour, or social status, of the other.
As always, getting the right mix is essential. We certainly should not go out of our way to pick a fight, to be insulting, to be rude, abrasive or tactless. But there are enough examples in Scripture to suggest that rhetorical devices can and do have a place in the Christian arsenal, if used wisely and with love.
It is not contradictory, in other words, to love and respect your opponents, while making use of strong and confronting language and rhetoric when dealing with their arguments.