September 14, 2010

Contending without being contentious


t has always been difficult for people to put me into a neat political category. My liberal friends think I’m a radical right-wing nutjob and my conservative friends think I’m a tree hugging bleeding-heart. Really, I am neither of those, and perhaps that’s why I confuse my friends so much.

1 Peter 2:11–12

Beloved, I urge you ... to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.

When the pastor of the Dove Outreach Center tweeted that he was going to burn Korans, I immediately said that I thought this was a bad idea. It’s not that I’m not committed to Christianity or that I harbor secret feelings of admiration for Muslims. I was in opposition to the Koran-burning simply because I think it is unnecessarily provocative.

I’ve been mulling over in my mind what I wanted to say on the blog about this and really had not come up with anything worth sharing. But then I listened to a recent podcast from The White Horse Inn and the answer was obvious. Christians should not burn the Koran because it is our job to spread the evangel—the Good News. Burning someone else’s holy book is not a great way to tell them good news of any sort, and certainly not the good news that Jesus Christ is the messiah—the Mahdi they have not yet recognized as Isa Al Maseech (Jesus).

In other words, we are called to contend for the faith (Jude 1:3), but we are not called to be contentious. In fact, that passage in Jude says:

I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Muslims certainly deny Jesus as Savior, but they have not “crept in unnoticed” and they are not, as far as I know, “perverting the grace of God into sensuality.”

I have often been contentious, but that is not what God has called us to. He has called us to reach out to a lost and dying world and to share his love—calling on folks everywhere to repent and turn to Christ as their savior, not to burn items that are precious to them to show that we disagree.



  1. Rich,
    I heartily agree with this. I've never understood how being contentious wins people to Christ. A life of love, peace, and grace is much more likely to help spread the gospel. I have several Muslim women friends and we have no problem getting along. I'm usually the one they trust when they have problems. I've been able to gently talk about Christ and my faith with them, usually one on one, and there is one who is asking quite a few questions. But I earned that right by treating them with dignity, respect, and love. It's good to remember that we were all unbelieving in Christ until the moment of our conversions even those raised in Christian homes. I doubt we would have listened carefully about God loving the world so much if someone had burned our most precious possessions. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Sandy. I feel like a bit of a loner on this one. Quite a few of my friends have seemed disturbed that I would be "defending the Muslims" or "attacking a fellow believer," neither of which I was doing.

    We Christians find it easy to follow the course of our culture and the popularity of television debate/news shows has increased our appetite for confrontation, in my estimation. It seems to be the Conservative version of the Jerry Springer show--get two opposing parties on screen and let them have at each other. As a result, we think it's perfectly fine to vilify our perceived opponents face-to-face in public. And, in fact, none of these people are our opponents. Many of them may be opposed to our God, but I really don't think they concern themselves too much with us personally.

    I'd love to see Christians turn back to a more genteel way of handling disagreements.

  3. An excellent perspective, Son, and well articulated! I assume the Gainsville pastor is a believer. If so, I cannot imagine how his proposed action would be done in the spirit of "meekness and fear" that is required of us who seek to "walk by the Spirit."


No personal attacks. No profanity.

Please keep your comments in good taste. Leave a name so we know who you are. Your comments are welcome, but anonymous flames and sacrilege will be deleted.