As I put it to my Sunday School class the other day, a rather large part of me is growing increasingly concerned over what I have almost come to see as a spineless, wimpy, apologetic approach to Christianity--and by "apologetic" I most emphatically do not mean "concerned with making the case for." I mean, in case it's unclear, an approach to the doctrine and practice of Christianity that makes it sound as though it were something to be ashamed of, something to be apologized for, rather than the very truth of God!
I'm also concerned that a large group of Christians, many of them in leadership positions, are, for whatever reasons, spending time trying to convince or even coerce other Christians into making concessions that they have no business whatever making.
Over and over again, I see the case being made that we should give up our liberty to do this or partake of that, on the grounds that:
A) We don't actually have liberty to do that, it's a sin...even though I can't cite Scripture to prove it...I just know it, dadgummit, okay? Oh, you want a verse? You actually want me to prove my case from the Bible? That's awfully petty of you, don't you think?
B) There might be a "weaker brother" out there...somewhere...maybe.
C) We might look "worldly."
D) I just have this feeling this might be one of those things Jesus is calling you to give up...no, no, I don't have a verse, I just have a peace about it...
E) Exercising your liberty in that fashion causes dissension, and we're supposed to be unified.
F) Speaking up for your liberty to do that causes even more dissension. You should give up on your position for the sake of unity. No, I don't think I should have to give in on my position. What could have possibly put such a thought in your head...sinner?
Well, "reasons" such as those could be multiplied endlessly--and no, these are not straw men, I've actually heard this kind of pap more than a few times--and I'm less concerned about them than I am the motivations behind them. It's easy to give a perfectly reasonable response to each of these reasons. That's not the problem.
I'd say the problem, or at least a big part of the problem, is that upon being given perfectly reasonable responses to these and other objections, not a few of my Christian brothers and sisters will still not be neither content nor convinced. They will simply bring up another objection, only to have it answered, and another, and another, and they will never admit that they were wrong. Instead, they will grow annoyed with me and start twisting verses and insinuating all sorts of things. They're so interested in controlling my (or someone else's) behavior that they cannot think rationally upon the subject in question.
When did we get to the point where no one defends Christian liberty? How did we wind up in a place where it's sometimes actually seen as selfish and inappropriate to do so? Why are we always to assume that Christian liberty is something that we can have, but must never exercise? Why is it always the people who are striving with all their might to constrict the exercise of Christian liberty who must be accommodated?
How has modern Christianity become all "taste not, touch not," and no "We did not yield to them in submission for even an hour"?
Why is it that no one seems willing to say to such people, "You're full of stewed prunes, you're not a weaker brother, you just can't stand it that I don't agree with you, and you need to mind your own business"? To those who would reply that that is insufferably rude, I cannot agree. People who are trying to restrict others' behavior without any clear Biblical warrant for doing so have not the slightest bit of room to criticize others for rudeness.
Why do you not see that your refusal to mind your own business is every bit as much an affront--MORE SO--than others' refusal to bend to your will?
Listen to Paul, in 2nd Corinthians, contrasting the way the false teachers treat the flock with his own behavior:
For you gladly put up with fools, since you are so smart! In fact, you put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours you, if someone captures you, if someone dominates you, or if someone hits you in the face. I say this to our shame: we have been weak.Paul is sarcastically--note, by the way, that Paul was not afraid to use sarcasm--saying that he was too "weak" to do these things, of course--too "weak" to "enslave," to "devour," to "capture," to "dominate," to hit someone in the face. But in the process, he is noting that these behaviors are characteristic of the false teachers! They "enslave," that is, they deprive of liberty. They "dominate," that is, they tell other people what to do when they have no business doing it. And so on.
They sound disturbingly reminiscent of some of our Southern Baptist brethren, and for some reason, people are terribly loathe to call them out on it--or even to mention their behavior in abstract.
And just as clearly, Paul is implying, if not saying outright, that the Corinthians shouldn't put up with behavior like that from their teachers! They shouldn't put up with someone dominating them, depriving them of their liberty, and so forth!
It's one thing to have iced tea instead of a Samuel Adams' Cream Stout when you're in the company of a brother who's a recovering alcoholic. It's another thing entirely to acquiesce when some teetotaling, bluenosed busybody who wouldn't touch a drop of any sort of liquor at gunpoint piously tells you that he's a "weaker brother" and demands that you not only not drink around him, but that you don't drink anywhere, anytime lest he be tempted beyond endurance by the mere thought of you having a glass of wine sometime in your life. One is loving and merciful; the other is shamefully cowardly and weak.
And the modern North American church is eaten up with this sort of thing. I can't remember the last time I heard anyone say or write anything along the lines of, "With love, brother, I really think you ought to just mind your own business on this."
No wonder the North American church is barely holding its own, if that. We've become a bunch of weenies. Who wants to join a bunch of weenies? (And watch: someone will object to my use of "weenies.")