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Ray Rooney, Jr.: Must We Play Nice?
Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:32 PM

What are we to make of Christians who sincerely believe that when it comes to engaging the world and issues, the Church must never offend or diminish her detractors? These people insist that Jesus was always respectful and never played rough with His critics. Consequently, they will not support any kind of Christian activism that doesn’t “play nice.” One fellow wrote to a Christian organization to say he was offended by the tone of an interviewer in an educational piece they put out about evolution. He informed them that “Jesus never belittled his naysayers…”

I believe those who think like that need to do two things. First, use a little common sense. Jesus and nearly all of His Apostles were murdered by their detractors. Perhaps I am being facetious but generally speaking people who are murdered have made someone mad. You don’t make enemies by telling those who disagree with you that you see their point and have changed your mind to agree with them. Neither do you make enemies by avoiding uncomfortable confrontations. You make enemies when you take a public stand on something and hold fast to it. By doing so you send a rather unavoidable message to those who do not like what you are saying: “You are wrong.”

Second, read the Bible for yourself. You may have heard that Jesus was meek and mild and gentle and agreeable and timid and soft-spoken but what you may have heard (even from what you believe to be reliable sources like your parents, peers, or even your pastor) is not necessarily what you will find in the Gospels. For instance, in the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount (usually referred to as the Beatitudes) Jesus promises a blessing “on you when others revile you and persecute you…on my account” (Matthew 5:11). Now why would anyone be hated and suffer for their beliefs if they hold them to themselves to keep from offending unbelievers? That is, if they “played nice” and just looked down at their shoes when being told to keep their stupid opinions to themselves?

As to the assertion that “Jesus never belittled his naysayers…” I find that completely false. Webster says that to “belittle” someone is to speak disparagingly of them. How can anyone who has read the Gospels make that claim? I can tell you this: many times the people Jesus was engaging in conversation felt insulted by Him. Look at Mark 12. It begins with Jesus telling a parable about some crooked workers in a vineyard. When He finished the story Mark says the people He was talking to “were seeking to arrest him…for they perceived that he had told the parable against them.” Where would they get that idea from I wonder?

Thinking better of causing a public scene with an arrest, those same people decided to try to embarrass and humiliate Jesus with some trick questions. First they tried to make Him out to be a seditionist by asking Him if He thought paying taxes to Rome was the right thing to do. You know how that turned out. Then, a group of Sadducees presented Him with a ridiculous hypothetical about a woman who married seven brothers. They wanted to know whose wife she would be in the resurrection (implying that a resurrection would induce heavenly chaos). The first words out of Jesus’ mouth were, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24). You would have to do a little research on who the Sadducees were to understand just how insulting it was for Jesus to tell them that they were wrong because they were both scripturally and theologically ignorant. After a quick little lesson about God He concludes His discussion with this parting shot: “You are quite wrong” (Mark 12:27). He then tells a scribe (again, do the research) who tried to embarrass Him hoping he could get Him to say which commandment is the most important so he could tell everyone all the commandments Jesus implied weren’t important, that he was “not far from the kingdom of God.” That was like telling a seminary professor who had published 30 books that he was pretty close to being saved. There is a reason that following those words Mark wrote, “And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.” He had just publicly embarrassed some of the most influential and educated people of the day!

I do not share this in order to justify every wound that has been inflicted upon people in the name of Christ. There are bad apples in the Church just like there are bad apples in the police force and bad apples in government and bad apples in every group. Just don’t tell me that because I am a Christian I cannot point out the glaringly obvious shortcomings in the arguments or character of those who want me to keep quiet and be submissive (to them) regarding the tenets of my faith because, after all, Jesus never tried to offend anyone.

Ray Rooney, Jr.

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