There’s always controversy in the world. We live in a contentious world, led by a liar who is also a thief and a destroyer. Ergo…contention.
Contention is not restricted to the secular world. Watching the news has become a chore for those who still persist in viewing it is often seen as simply sandbox yelling and fisticuffs at a juvenile level. The news itself, when the ‘journalists’ get around to reporting it, is evil, heartbreaking, and soul denting.
Controversy also occurs in the Christian world. It has since the beginning, the very beginning. They killed Jesus, the only perfect, sinless, and loving human being ever to walk the earth. People who long for the early days of the first century church need to remember that false doctrines, false prophets, and false teachers crawled in like a tsunami of cockroaches and permeated the faith right away. The Apostles had to spend a lot of time stamping them out. It even affected Peter and Barnabas, who had to be corrected publicly by Paul. There were Nicolatians, the Judaizers, the Gnostics, those who went the way of Balaam, individual false teachers going from town to town, the Pharisees, and many others who had to be opposed with a voice from the pastor or leader. Vigilance was necessary.
John Calvin said that a pastor must have two voices. One, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.
However, you notice that the Bible’s writers did not spend a lot of time opining about the culture. They did not opine about every emperor transition, every tragedy, every riot or mob incident or organization or guild. There was one mention by Jesus of the Tower of Siloam incident which seemed to have happened “off stage” and was only spoken of as an object lesson for death.
Our hurry-up, social media, 24-hour news culture seems to demand from us an opinion on just about everything. These days, it demands that the opinion has to come with some form of outrage or offendedness.
I was a journalist for almost 8 years. I worked for weeklies, dailies, and contributed to a monthly. I was a news reporter so I had to be in tune with the culture and fresh news. I was an editor so I had to have an opinion about it, and write it in such a way so as to help people make sense in their daily lives of what they read. I won awards for news editorials. I was good at it and news opinion was a constant thread in my work no matter what other kind of journalism I was working at.
However all those habits and works were a detriment to me when it came time to be saved and begin a writing ministry. I had to go slower. I had to step out of the cycle. Most painfully, I had to learn that I didn’t have to have an opinion.
People smarter than me have opinions on the culture, on today’s news, on the secular and religious controversies. People who have more information have opinions. People with more talent have opinions. People who are men, the leaders and pastors have opinions.
I’ve mentioned that I really enjoy Samuel D. James’ writing. He published an essay recently called The Bible is Not a Slideshow for Your Hot Take
Mr James wrote about the aftermath of the news that comedian Robin Williams had taken his own life. It’s a good moment and a good impulse when the Chrisitan wants to capture the moment and impart some Christian worldview truths. “This is good, and normal,” he wrote. However, too often we do not have all the information necessary to do so in a God-honoring way. As time went on, more information came out that added dimension and nuance to the Robin Williams tragedy. If the Christian who had written superficially in the immediate aftermath did so in a less than God-honoring way (“Click to like!”) then it’s a tragedy for us too.
What I am saying is that cheaply thought, cheaply written responses to these events by definition betray the Christian commitment to the centrality of truth.
Aaron Armstrong wrote a similar essay with an ever more pointed headline: No You Don’t Have to Comment On Everything
I have opinions about politics, including American politics. I occasionally share those opinions. But usually, I prefer to keep my mouth shut. Why? It generally comes down to one thing. A proverb, in fact. “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, CSB).
When the James White-Brannon Howse issue came to the fore, I had an opinion. When it continued, I had an opinion. As it subsided, I had an opinion. I didn’t share my opinion, except for one private query with my very short answer. Why? The men were handling it. Phil Johnson was on it. The men of GTY were on it. Others behind the scenes were on it. In the end Justin Peters and his church elders from Kootenai Church were on it. They knew more. They had a bigger platform. They were more humble. They had more spiritual insight. They possessed more experience.
I feel that the above mentioned controversy was a good test for me. It took a long time for me to subside the drive to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. This was difficult for a hard-boiled journalist taught to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. It’s even harder when the Lord has given the spiritual gift of exhortation. I always want to speak, but I don’t always have to speak. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
Sometimes I’ll feel led to have a public opinion. That’s OK. But not every time. Not all the time.
It IS more relaxing to not feel like I have to publicly weigh in or have a public position on every single controversy in the world. Sometimes in my news days I felt like a minnow in a washing machine. I don’t want to feel that way as a Christian. I want to exude a steadiness, a patience, a reserve, a solidity.
I’ll let my favorite pastor and one of Christendom’s most respected living teachers have the last word. Whether you feel led most times or only sometimes to state your position on social media or other forms of wide communication…