Sophisticated and astute

Want to crush someone’s handling of a delicate question? Label the response as being unsophisticated. Wish to elevate a person? Praise his or her navigation through a mine field as being socially astute.

Just how much value do we assign to pleasing everyone? Christians are exhorted to speak the truth in love. But what should a Christian do when real social, economic or other practical consequences might result from failing to bend the truth?

Perhaps the following scenarios can reveal what we value most.

How would we regard a preacher, motivated by avoiding a brutal backlash, who says, “Because we might yet discover a gene influencing homosexual behavior, I don’t know how God views this”?

What would we think about a Christian responding to a mixed religious social situation with, “In my opinion, there are many roads to heaven”?

Would we ever say, “I don’t want to judge” on a matter where the biblical teaching is clearly stated?

To be sure, there are times when sensitivity and sophistication are needed in handling difficulties. Furthermore, Christians are exhorted to be stellar peacemakers.

Yet, seeking peace at all costs distorts what the Bible values and teaches. Jesus challenges the degree to which societies might value tolerance and abhor offending others. His language exposes unrestrained sophisticated appeasing.

“Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

Conversely, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and spurn you as evil on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For so their ancestors did to the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

When Jesus warned that it is impossible to serve two masters (Luke 16:13), this applies to more than God and money. Many values, even good values, can clamor to supersede our service to God.

Which is more important?

  • Is it more important to serve God or to increase enrollment at a Christian university/to increase the membership in a congregation? While these values are often compatible, there are situations where they can be in conflict.
  • Is it more important to participate in God’s mission to reach a world for which his Son died or to be accepted by our neighbors and friends?

Reading through the gospel of Luke, I repeatedly discover Jesus’ words to be stringent.

“What is highly prized among men is utterly detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Clearly, Jesus confronts us and challenges us to cling to different values than those forces shaping non-disciples.

When our values do align with God’s, then our behaviors will follow suit and serve God’s purposes. Until then, Jesus’ words will hauntingly ring, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They have two boys attending university.

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