by Jack Arrington, Senior Pastor
Paul wrote of his own ministry in 2 Corinthians 6:3, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” Yet for the Jews (and many others), Paul realized that the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus and not by works would cause many to stumble. So in Romans 9:32-33 he wrote, “They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”
Perhaps you’ve heard it prayed in putting these together, “Lord, if people stumble let it be over the offense of the Gospel and not because I am personally offensive.”
A recent conversation with a young man put me in mind of those things. He told me of his struggle with what might be called “Evangelical Arrogance.”
We are sure that Jesus is God’s Son, the Savior of the world, and that through faith in him we find life and forgiveness in a relationship with God. We are sure about Jesus because we are sure that the Bible is God’s word.
How can we be so sure without coming across as arrogant, intolerant, and prideful?
Into these thoughts came the release of a very timely article written by John Dickson, an Australian writer, historian, minister and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. He is co-founder and director of the Centre for Public Christianity, a media company that seeks to “promote the public understanding of the Christian faith.” He also serves as senior minister of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Roseville, Australia. Whew.
Dickson’s article is “The Church in Secular Culture” and can be found at the following web site: http://christianitytoday.imirus.com/Mpowered/book/vcat12/i2/p5. I tried to get permission to post the whole article but could not. So here’s the thought that grabbed my attention:
I think the very first thing to do is to adopt a stance of mission instead of admonition toward the world.
Are we too busy telling others they are wrong? Too busy proving we are right when we ought to be loving and serving first?
Here’s where the article intersected my recent conversation. We are convinced we are right about the Gospel. Are we certain about everything else? This is where my young friend struggled. It seemed like the Christianity he grew up with acted as if it were right about everything. It was bent on admonishing anyone who disagreed on anything.
My own experience resonated with his comment. One man left my previous church because I could not agree that the only possible Christian position on Genesis was that of a literal six-day creation and a young earth of 10,000 or fewer years old. Really? Of course, only one view is true. But are we to say now that we know the origins of life on earth with such certainty that people who do not agree are less than Christian? Even non-Christian?
Is there only one Christian position on healthcare? On birth control? On welfare? Must all good Christians be capitalists? Or Republicans? Or Democrats? Is Christian socialist an oxymoron? Having the truth of the Gospel, do we act as if we have the truth about everything else and that, of course, all good Christians will think as we think?
How do we draw others to Christ without being arrogant? Maybe it’s by admitting that we are not so sure about everything. That we too have many unanswered questions. Maybe it’s about humility, love, and caring first.