Under the veil of “taking a stand” for our values, I fear we are letting loose all kinds of dishonoring, uncharitable speech. We need to stop.
The Cause of Frustration
I understand the frustration of conservative Christians who sense that the values we once shared with the dominant culture are slipping away. Things have changed. We’ve gone from being the moral majority to a minority – and sometimes we feel beleaguered. We come across examples of social ostracism or we hear about the legal challenges Christians face when they fail to compromise. It’s frustrating to watch the brokenness of Washington, D.C, as politicians in both parties seem more concerned about their prospects for reelection than the people they represent.
Evangelicals are having to learn how to be a distinct minority – people who must make a case for our values in the public square rather than simply assuming others share our views. We will soon be known for beliefs that are out of step with contemporary society. So be it. The Church has been in this situation many times before.
The question before us is this: Will we be known for honor?
Conduct Yourself with Honor
The Apostle Peter’s letter was written to “exiles,” believers facing persecution far greater than any of us Americans have ever seen. These Christians were living under a tyrannical government far worse than any bureaucrat in a D.C. office. Yet Peter instructed believers to live honorably among others (1 Peter 2:11-17). The “others” refer to those who are not “in Christ.”
The word “conduct” appears thirteen times in the Bible, and eight of those times are in Peter’s letters. It’s safe to say, Peter cared about how our conduct was viewed by outsiders.
Now, the fact that Peter says we should live honorably among others means we must indeed be among the lost. Some evangelicals, weary of partisan bickering and political posturing from their Christian friends, are ready to throw up their hands and avoid political engagement altogether. I understand that sentiment, but failing to be present or involved in any meaningful sense in a democratic republic would be to forfeit the stewardship we’ve been given. There is no retreat here.
The question is not if but how we will be involved. It’s a change of posture, not political persuasion.
I like the way John Piper puts it:
“Being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”
Slander Shouldn’t Stick
We also ought to live and speak in such a way that slander is untrue and charges of hypocrisy don’t stick.
When people claim that pro-lifers are only concerned about the unborn, and not little children or hurting mothers, we ought to be able to say, “Not true” and have the care of thousands of Christians behind us to prove it. Our good works ought to silence the ignorance of people who would slander us in foolishness (1 Peter 2:15).
But here’s where it gets hard. We are to honor everyone, Peter said. Even the emperor (1 Peter 2:17). Yes, the bloodthirsty, sexual maniac on Caesar’s throne must receive honor from Christians suffering under the thumb of a dictatorship.
Please don’t tell me Obama is worse than Nero.
Paul backs Peter up, telling us to outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).
The Honor Filter
So, instead of just putting up internet filters so we can control what comes into our computers, perhaps we should put up an “honor filter” that will help us control what goes out of our computers. Consider what questions an “honor filter” we could ask of our Facebook and Twitter statuses.
- Is my point of view offered with respect to those who disagree?
- Do I assume the best of those who are my political opponents?
- Does it look like I am raging against injustice or against people made in God’s image?
- Am I showing honor when reviled or slandered?
For the Christian, it’s not about winning a culture war. We win through how we engage our neighbors. Our honor should be on full display… even on Facebook.