Christians are supposed be about the truth. We are to proclaim the truth, live the truth, and love the truth. But sometimes, in advancing the truth, we tell ourselves lies. In other words, there is a way to actually hold a biblical position on an issue and sin in the way we make the argument. Here are five common ways:
1) We conflate principled activism with vitriolic words.
How often have you prolonged an argument with your wife, knowing you are right in substance? How has that worked out for you? Likely you did serious damage to your relationship. This plays out in every kind of relationship, whether it’s family, business, and in the culture. Most often I see this in the political arena. Simply having the right, biblical views doesn’t excuse us from Christ-exalting speech. Paul reminds us that the weapons of our warfare are not “carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4). For followers of Christ, it’s not enough to be on the right side of an issue. We must also honor God with the way we make our arguments. Colossians 4:6 says we should let our speech be always with grace. Even on Facebook. Even when talking about someone with whom we disagree.
2) We assume we’re the only “true” believers
When you’re passionate about a particular issue, whether it’s a cultural and moral issue or a theological issue, it can seem like you’re standing alone. Sometimes you may be the only one, but usually that’s a deceptive lie of the enemy. I think of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He was convinced he was the only one in Israel who cared about the wickedness and idolatry of the monarch. But he wasn’t. God reminded him that there were 7,000 other true believers. This lie, that we’re the only ones, can be especially destructive. It can lead us to distrust anyone and everyone. It can destroy friendships because we see enemies even in friends who may not completely agree with our methodology. I’ve seen this in churches, in civic activities, in politics. But all this does is create a Messiah complex, burns bridges with would-be allies, and hurts the cause we are championing.
3) We justify treating others around us poorly.
Being on the right side of an issue, adhering to a proper theological position, and a heartbeat for evangelism is often used as a cover for poor and ungodly leadership styles. But as much as the New Testament affirms proper doctrine, it informs loving treatment of our fellow man. In fact, our understanding of the gospel should make us more inclined to treat others well, not less. “Getting results” is not the goal of leadership, according to Jesus. Servanthood is (Matthew 20:25). And in every single list for spiritual leadership, you will see words like “gentleness” “not a brawler”, “kind.” (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Look at the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). Sadly, even many Christian leadership models would consider these as weaknesses. Leaders have to remind themselves that the work they are doing God doesn’t exempt them from becoming a spirit-filled man of God. Nobody is so valuable to the Kingdom that He is justified in being a tyrant.
4) We think it’s okay to ignore our families.
This one hits home to me. It’s easy to get so caught up in the work of God, that we ignore our families. Finding the balance isn’t that easy, but we must never forget that our families are our first ministry. The family was the first institution God ordained, thousands of years before He began the Church. I’m amazed, though, how easy it is for us to justify cheating the family to serve God, as if the family and the church are in competition. They are not. Churches need healthy cultures where key leaders feel okay to tend to their families without being made to feel like they are abandoning God’s mission.
5) We fight with the wrong weapons
Lot of the lies we tell ourselves in advancing the truth come from bad theology. We assume that God has put on this earth to do all His work, by ourselves and without His power. But that’s impossible. We tell ourselves that we are the only ones, we have to resort to worldly tactics, we have to abandon our families–because the mission of God is so important. A sense of holy, gospel urgency is important, but God never leads us to do something contrary to His Word. And in His Word we are told that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, that without God’s power, we’ll be able to do “nothing.” Oh, we’ll make a lot of noise, but we’ll do nothing of value to the Kingdom. Our most potent weapons are not mailing lists or technological advancements or cutting edge strategies. Our greatest weapon is the Holy Spirit, God in us. We’re most powerful when we are on our knees in prayer, storming the gates of Heaven for God’s divine blessing and mercy. The enemy minds little if we’re advancing truth, as long as we believe his lie that we can do this ourselves.