A Surprisingly Simple Definition of God’s Will
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good * you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15, NKJV) I think sometimes that Christianity is losing the debate out there… Our world seems to be changing around us, and when Christians try to stand for conservative values and sensible morality, they are dismissed as oppressive or old-fashioned, held up to ridicule, and even arrested.
Opposites Don’t Attract
Our culture believes that killing a fetus is ok, that it is reasonable to change genders, and that authority should be challenged. Truth is subjective, innuendo is reported as fact, and the resulting confusion creates a nation filled with polar opposites. Social media is filled with debates where it is obvious that one side will not convince the other, and harsh words fly back and forth without affecting anyone who holds the opposing point of view (Except perhaps to make them more angry and more entrenched in their unreasonable position.)
Dialog has ceased in favor of diatribe; interaction has deteriorated into insults and invective. These types of personal attacks seem to be common whether the subject is abortion, gay marriage, politics, or race. Maybe you’ve been drawn into a Facebook or Twitter argument, and were surprised at the passion and hatred that was thrown your way. Did it change your mind about anything? Probably not.
Debates Aren’t Working Anymore
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that no one has ever been forcibly argued into the Kingdom of God. It is a volunteer organization. Anyone can join, and everyone has a choice. If you think about it, wouldn’t everybody want to join a group whose main values are grace, love, and peace? So, why are churches shrinking? Why are so many people turned off by organized religion? Why is the vocal minority expanding, claiming huge chunks of Kingdom territory for its own, and why are millennial’s leaving the church? Could it be that “ignorant men” are winning the debate because the people the Church is trying to reach are not being overwhelmed by goodness?
So, What Then?
It is not a Christian’s mission to be moral or righteous; God gives us righteousness by faith. Peter says that God’s will is for us to do good things. Could it be that too many Christians are concerned with BEING good instead of DOING good? It could open up an existential debate. Descartes and Kant said, “To do is to be”. Socrates and Nietzsche said, “To be is to do.” Does what we believe show who we are, or does who we are show what we believe?
Jesus knew that what we do is a reflection of who we are, and so he said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:35) He agreed with the great modern philosopher Frank Sinatra, who said “Do-Be-do-Be-do.”
A quote I remember from college is what Peter Lord said: “What you REALLY believe shows in your life every day. All the rest is just Christian talk.” Another platitude was, “Folks don’t care how much you KNOW, until they know how much you CARE.” Making an astute observation about human behavior, Mark Twain said, “Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest”. As a vocal critic of hypocrisy in the church, he knew that even religion didn’t necessarily guarantee right actions.
The point is, we Christians will not silence ignorance by our crafty arguments or by being “holier-than-thou”. Peter says we will share our faith with those who disagree most effectively by doing good to others. And if you think, “Well, I do lots of good things, so I’m covered”, then consider the twist James puts on it: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Voltaire echoed that verse when he said, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.” Have you done good things? Good! Is there more we can do? Absolutely. Let’s get out there and argue with our good works. Change the debate and change the world.
Doing Your Argument Well
When other people see your life, assume that this is true:
They do not listen to your words, but to the things you DO.
The world is full of ignorant men who argue night and day;
The church will never reach them merely by the things we SAY.
St Frances preached perhaps the greatest sermon ever heard:
“I preach Christ always; but, when necessary I use words.”
Less debate, less judgment and less hate should be unfurled:
Change debate to love, and then go out and change the world.
*(And to all your grammarians out there, yes I know that technically it should be “do well” or “do good [things]”, and not “do good”, so just assume that where I have said, “do good” I am actually inferring the correct form. I was conforming with the King James version in writing this.)
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