“Hillsong is a cult,” “it’s BDSM time” (bring down Scott Morrison), “just another Christian RWNJ idea” (right-wing nut job) are increasingly common tirades towards the smallest resemblance of traditional values and even irreligious decisions made by the Australian Government which currently has a practicing Pentecostal Prime Minister.
Such strong-willed comments come from a place of belief regarding Christianity whether containing some merit or solely inaccurately on stereotypes of the media’s construct of religion or not, it is signalling a person’s frustration and inner yearning for resolution to an untended inner need.
Faithful churchgoers coming across such vitriol might be tempted to respond in rage and be compelled to defend Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s policies without understanding its implications or impact on afflicted communities.
However, if Christians contemplated thoroughly our evangelistic conversations and approaches to mistaken belief, a time of reflection would perhaps allow us to look beyond the public bitterness of many towards this world’s only chance at redemption – being the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Sounds of Silence
Knowing when to shut up or hold your tongue is, if not more, crucial than learning how to speak well, and Christians ought not to be afraid of cowardice for not responding immediately to every quip about our belief or those who practice our common faith.
While we have the Truth with us, it is meaningless if we fail to be engaging with people’s hearts the way Jesus did. It is time to look beyond a person’s contempt for Christianity and any of their caricatures of the post-modernist and enlightened mind which at first would seem to be a lost cause for repentance.
First listening is as important as having a firm grasp of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the practical way of living out what 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 15 teaches, “but in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Despite what our dear old schoolteachers led us to believe, a question must end with a question mark, an ANGRY EXCLAMATION!! can easily be a sign of a heart yearning to know more or unconsciously desiring to seek a form of resolution to life’s challenges.
How can we give an answer if we fail to recognise the question being asked?
The sharing of the hope we have can only be something the doubter seeks if we first are willing to let them pursue their inquiries.
When churches receive criticism as unsafe spaces, while there is a distorted view portrayed by the liberal establishment of what places of religion are – it is important to many who have had their trust betrayed in what ought to be have been a place of solace, rightfully will doubt and lash out.
When we recognise what and who is actually seeking, asking, or yearning to hear life from the Good News of Jesus Christ, the first act of reverence of God in patiently listening prepares us well to give a Godly response.
Our response may be in the form of spoken word or lived experiences and journeying to demonstrate and witness the hope we have in Jesus Christ, we ought not to forget we too were once lost and seeking Truth.
How to “shut up”
Proverbs chapter 18 verse 13 reminds us of the pitfalls “to answer before listening – is folly and shame,” we can focus on listening well which can take shape in many forms not limited to responding to what appears to be an outlandish remark with a genuine question instead of a rebuttal.
The desired outcome towards sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ should foster positive dialogue not an expository battle of wit and stamina based upon misconceptions of one another. A reaction of sympathy combined with the ability to identify with the person rather than nit-picking on their words leads to better conversations.
Finding a shared or common experiences might at first glance appear to be an insightful channel to engage, but when one who has doubt or is suffering speaks of a question, they require understanding not to hear your unintentional lecture or sob-story.
Controversial topics such as separation of church and state, homosexuality, abortion or the like may seem like no go areas and impossible for pluralistic exchange of views, especially if you’re an evangelical Christian, but all is not lost when we heed the teachings to the Colossians in chapter 3 verse 1 and 2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Our focus ought not be to win the liking or widespread applause of the general populous or the media. Christians are called to live out a mindset beyond ourselves for God’s kingdom.
So hence, when we do encounter difficult topics or questions which have politically correct consequences or leanings, Christians can rest assured if we truly try to listen and understand why particular positions have been articulated brazenly or bashfully – one can avoid the rabbit hole of intellectual slanging and slagging which fails to soften hearts or open minds.
Whether the secular world has sometimes been right or wrong in lumping some Christians in with crazy conservatives (RWNJ), let us remember, roughness wins no joy. But through reverent fear of God and love of Jesus Christ which we rely on, it is amazing what a touch of empathy and validation can bring towards a free and frank exchange of often deeply seated beliefs or worldviews.
When we engage with one another, it is the hope we have in Jesus Christ which should speak for us once we first “shut up.”
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 12 July 2021.