Monday, August 18, 2014

STOP OVER-REACTING!

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" -- Jeremiah 17:9


"The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." -- Proverbs 20:5


"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger"

-- James 1:19

(Photo credit mgoblog.com)
There has been a trend in media that has been a bit disconcerting to me, and I think if we are all honest, it's an issue that we all tend to have a part in.  It's this phenomenon of everyone sharing an opinion and then folks having an immediate reaction to it.  Facebook hasn't been helpful in this regard, as everyone (including yours truly) now has access both to create content or to respond to created content.  There is a voice for nearly every point of view, and every voice seems to want to stand alone and say "I'm right, everyone else is wrong, and you're all ignorant if you don't see it my way."  

Before I get into the damage I see happening in Christian circles, I want to use an example from mainstream media in just how ridiculous this has become.  Just a few weeks ago, Stephen A. Smith, a personality on ESPN, most notably for the show ESPN First Take, was suspended for comments he made during this show.   "First Take" is best known for it's tagline, "Let's Embrace Debate," with Smith and Skip Bayless trading opinions about different issues surrounding sports.  It was during one of these episodes that Smith shared some of his views on domestic abuse (Due to the recent NFL ruling on Ravens RB Ray Rice for his domestic violence charge).  While he shared often that men who are involved should be, unequivocally, held 100% accountable for their actions in domestic abuse situations, he also shared an opinion about women and how they could help in trying to avoid these circumstances.  However, he certainly did not use the greatest language, as he used the word "provoke" in regards to women and how they could help in certain situations of avoiding domestic abuse situations.  Because of this, he was ordered by ESPN to give a three minute apology, and was suspended from being on the air for a week.  This was all from him giving an honest opinion on a show that's about sharing your honest opinion.   If you boil it down, Stephen A Smith was suspended for doing his job... that's absurd.

Now, hear me out here: I'm not saying that what he said wasn't right or wrong, and I'm not saying he should or shouldn't have been more sensitive in how he handled his words.  But I find it ironic that there was no asking for clarity on what he meant, no seeking to understand, just apology and suspension.  Swift justice for something that, quite honestly, wasn't very clear.  (For the record, I want to be clear that by no means do I blame any woman for being abused in ANY situation.)  I think what Smith was trying to say, and I think it's a fair point, is that we can try and help young women steer clear of future situations that could lead to physical abuse, which I think we'd all agree is a good idea, and it would be wise for women to heed that counsel.  Again, that's NOT saying women bring abuse on themselves, rather it's recognizing that men, like all people on this planet, are sinners, and some have bad intentions when it comes to women.  That message was lost in the shuffle due to, what I think, is an over-reaction in the media.  

So how does this extend into Christian culture?  There are a number of blogs popping up lately, and there is a theme that I see happening: "I don't like something in the culture, I've been hurt by it, I've seen other people hurt by it, so I'm going to rail against it, tell them it's stupid, and swing the pendulum the other way because that's the better option."  I've seen them on courtship and dating, sexual purity, and other topics, and the responses to them tend to be: "This is really helpful, yes, we should do this thing!"  I'm not saying that none of them have any fair points, but are we really considering why the person is writing it, what past hurt and experience they are writing from, and how they are interpreting scripture in the midst of it?  

The latest I've seen is an article on courtship and how it's fundamentally flawed.  I won't describe it all, but here's a summary:  he's seen people be hurt by courtship, that it led to divorce rather than happy marriages, and that we should really date instead, because that would lead to more happy marriages.  Now, I'm not against happy marriages.  I'm not for divorce.  But one thing that really struck me was how many people who didn't grow up in the culture that he talked about were commenting on how he was right on!  They didn't necessarily pick up on the unhelpful parts of the article, nor did some consider if the attitude of the author was actually writing from a spirit of humble submission to the Spirit, or out of bitterness towards the culture he once grew up in (or a bit of both).  This is dangerous, because it means we are struggling to discern and respond patiently to the "preachers" that speak constantly at us day in and day out.  

Peter and Paul both warn in their letters that many false teachers will come, and many in the church, who have itching ears, will accumulate teachers to suit their own passions, and in doing so, will walk away from the church (2 Timothy 4, 2 Peter 2).  Furthermore, the quotes at the top show how fickle our hearts are.  They are wicked and deceitful, and that a man of understanding knows how to draw out the heart.  In a culture that over-reacts, we must be steady and consider all things in light of the scriptures, and act wisely as we apply them.  

So, a few thoughts:

1. Be discerning in your blog/media consumption - Not all blogs are created equal.  Not all news is helpful.  I'm not saying to be an ostrich and keep your head in the sand.  What I am saying is, what are the reputable blogs that you can follow consistently, that utilize scripture well and speak into culture from scripture rather than from experience?  Those should be your meat and potatoes, the ones that help you think more about who God is and how the scriptures define our lives.  

2. Bloggers, be wise about what you publish - Look, my guess is not too many bloggers read my blog.  But if you are a blogger, or are attempting to start a blog, realize this: your experience is not everyone's experience.  If you're writing about a cultural issue that doesn't extend outside of your community, it's probably best you don't publish it OR (and probably an even better option), is to make sure you get to the heart of the matter.  For instance, if you're writing a blog post about courtship vs. dating, instead of writing "7 flaws of courtship and why it's unbiblical," get to the heart of the issue.  The problem wasn't the system of courtship, it was the legalism behind it, and the need for control, and those same issues come up in dating, etc.  Target the heart, and analyze your own heart before you publish.  

3.  Our mission is to preach Christ Crucified to Reconcile Sinners - Whether you read blogs or write them, we need to remember that our ultimate goal is the Gospel Preached, and lost men and women saved.  Whether it's dating, purity, doctrinal issues, community issues, etc, we need to remember that none of those compare to the magnitude of the Gospel.  If we are not unified in this, then we will crush each other out of convictions that are minor compared to the supreme importance of Christ.  If the issues have to do with the Gospel, then let's respond well.  If they don't, let's dialogue, seek clarity, and patiently understand our hearts through the lens of scripture.  

In His Grace,
Zack