Have you noticed anyone feeling tense lately?
I don’t know, maybe in your home, at work, the grocery store, or your social media feed??
While pandemic restrictions narrow down once again, emotions take flight. Along with them the opinions… the very strong opinions. Now, it’s great to have thoughtfully considered a position, it’s important to research and think about what you truly value. There may have been a time (or two) when my husband has experienced a strong conviction of my own. We are people of passion, and we can use this for so much good.
Holding a firm opinion isn’t sinful, but it can lead to sin. In the world, we expect normal people to lash out in anger, spite someone else’s opinion, or vilify their character, whether it’s in person or a comment on social media.
But this is not to be among the family of believers.
Those who love and follow Jesus are called away from the old ways of life, and by grace respond to the gospel in loving obedience for the glory of God and the good of others.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32).
All. This doesn’t mean some. It doesn’t apply only when it relates to topics of sunshine and rainbows. The apostle Paul admonishes us to put on our “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). We see evidence of our salvation through the words we speak - or post – which reflect the condition of our heart.
Why do we succumb to temptation?
When emotions are running high, and convictions are clenched tightly in hand, the temptation to slander and judge others becomes easier to do. By exerting our strongly held position and doing it against someone else, it gives us something we want, something we think we need.
Sharing your opinion, at the expense of love and kindness, gives us a feeling of authority… and we like it. We want to be seen as someone with expertise, with the power to control. See, “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov 18:21). There is power in the words we speak and the results linger.
Our experiences shape our convictions and how we see the world and people around us; we observe what’s happening, we grieve, and we long for a solution. Yet, the solution we are most prone to come up with - for all the frustration, indignation and fear we feel - is to exert some type of control, most often, and easiest, through the use of words.
But the gospel shows us another way, God’s provision of order.
God Provides A Framework
Our home sits on a quiet bay. It’s usually a calm place to be (in terms of traffic). However, in the last couple weeks, two homes have begun large renovation projects and a tech company is installing pipes, wiring and boxes for an upcoming, faster, internet service. This results in considerably more chaos, as cement trucks, skidsteers, trucks, trailers and diggers move in and out of the bay.
My kids enjoy running back and forth between the yards and biking around on the road. With the increased chaos and traffic, I’ve had to set some guidelines before they go out, lest there be any tragic encounters with equipment.
I can’t waltz onto the road and demand all equipment and staff to stop their work so my children can play, that’s not a logical solution. But what I can do is provide boundaries and cautions for the kids, so they can continue to play safely.
We see throughout scripture a God of order. In the very beginning he brings structure out of the darkness, he chooses Abraham out of all pagan nations to establish a line of people for his own glory, he brings reconciliation to a sinful world through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. He provides order for our chaos as a sovereign, powerful and authoritative God.
Yet, sin disrupts all that he has given, from the tree in the garden to our own sinful choices, fracturing of all that was peaceful. We see time and again how sin hinders peace, love and kindness. The good news of the gospel is the work of Christ has opened the way for restoration and reconciliation, for the slow growth of sanctification to spring up as we turn away from rage-full words and slanderous judgements, then move toward a posture of humility.
Holding a Posture of Humility
In contrast to position ourselves against others, we can learn to adopt a perspective of curiosity and compassion. We can pray for eyes to see others as Jesus does. Someone holding an opposite position to yours, is created in the image of God with their own experiences in life, possibly they’re even your brother or sister in Christ.
Tim Keller writes, “when the gospel is deeply grasped, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious.” Oh, that the gospel would take hold of our hearts and words! The very salvation we hold to results from Christ’s humility, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). Do we model this emptying for the good of others, to look not just at our own needs, wants and desires, but to surrender our will to the Father, conforming to the love and unity found in him.
Keller also writes, “those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.” When the gospel takes hold of our heart, we see how desperate we are for rescue and how helpless we are to obtain it on our own. There is no earning for this gift. That’s why it’s a gift.
Considering our Savior and the work he accomplished for us, let’s repent of our sinful words and actions and seek to be a people who model the humility of Christ in kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness, grasping deeply the beauty of the gospel.
How can you cultivate humility in your life today?