Saturday, September 22, 2012

On Samaritans and Scoffers

I know am about to run the risk of being labeled a stick-in-the-mud, but  it's a chance I'll have to take.  There are some things more important in life than humor, and the gospel is one of them.  If I didn't think this was a gospel matter I wouldn't be bothering about it at all.  So here goes.

There is a meme floating around on the internet.  It is being passed around and "liked" by Christian people which is, again, the only reason I'm bothering to address this at all.  We Christians are gospel people - or at least that is what we are called to be.  We are not our own. We represent Christ on this earth, so our behavior, even the the act of "liking" things on Facebook, reflects on the message we are here to present to the world.

The text of the meme, in case you can't read the fine print in the picture, runs like this:

Hi Friend,

I just wanted to let you know that some knucklehead vandalized your car by slapping an Obama sticker on it.  The last thing you want is to be driving around all day looking like an idiot.
Take Care,
A Good Samaritan
The import of this little note, though couched in indirect language, is obvious.  It is using friendly language to send a hostile message.  It is calling the supporters of this politician (who also happens to be the sitting President of this nation) idiots. The act of photographing it and putting it out on the internet signals another intent: to gather up laughter, and thus support, in calling Obama supporters idiots.  This person is scoffing at the President and his supporters.  Our laughter in response reveals that this scoffing resonates with us, and it makes us scoffers too.

"The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind."  Proverbs 24:9

I've noticed that some Christians these days seem quite fond of referring to certain sins as "abominations".  Though I think we are often less than prudent and far less than loving in our use of such language, the fact remains that our Bible does label some sins in this manner. But let me ask you this: when was the last time you heard a Christian decrying scoffing as an abomination?

Yet, the Bible has a surprising amount to say about scoffers, and none of it good.

The truth is, even though I don't have cable or satellite TV, don't listen to partisan talk-radio, and regulate my media intake via selective internet use, still I am exposed to scoffing every day.  I'm quite certain we all are.  We live in a culture of mockery and scoffing.  It is in the air we breathe. It is the stuff, the veritable backbone, of our media and entertainment, and most especially of our humor.  There are few forces more powerful than humor.  Its very nature is to surprise us, bypassing the guards of our hearts and throwing open the closets where we hide what we really think and how we really feel. When we laugh at a joke, it is because it is speaking our emotional language.  Therefore, the things we find amusing reveal a lot about our character.  Scoffing is the dark side of humor. When we scoff, or when we laugh with scoffers, we are taking pleasure in tearing others down.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven."  Matthew 5:44
You cannot love people and tear them down at the same time.

"Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." 1 Peter 2:17

You cannot honor people and insult them at the same time.  

When we Christians engage in scoffing, we reveal our willingness to engage in ad hominem attacks, we insult those with whom we disagree, and we forfeit all hope of changing their minds or winning their hearts.  We undermine our trustworthiness in the eyes of those we offend, misrepresent the God we serve, and discredit our testimony as Christians in their eyes. 

 Without love we cannot lead anyone to Christ. 

“The one who showed him mercy.”

Finally, I found the greatest offense as a Christian was to see the signature "Good Samaritan" taken up by a person in the act of scoffing at a stranger.  The expression itself comes from a story told by Jesus Christ in response to a man who was hoping to get out of having to love people he doesn't want to love.  Jesus had just told him that in order to inherit eternal life he must love God with all his heart and love his neighbor as he loves himself. So the man asked, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus responded with the story of a Samaritan (a deeply despised kind of person regarded as immoral and traitorous by the Jews), a good Samaritan, who took care of a wounded man who had been ignored by all the respectable passersby.  The impact of the story on the young man would have been much like the impact on a Republican being told this compassionate stranger was Obama himself.  The writer of this note, wittingly or not, is making a mockery of what it means to be a Good Samaritan.

We are nearing the end of another heated election year and yet again I find myself distressed by the behavior of Christians on both sides of the political divide.  (Yes, there really are committed Christians in both parties, and thank God for it, since people on both sides need Jesus!)  And I am seeing Christians on both sides allow their political opinions to undermine the fruit of the Spirit and the work of the gospel in their lives and relationships. I ask and challenge you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what your political tendencies, to leave all un-Christlike behavior (all scoffing, mocking, insults, slander, malice, envy, etc.) out of your lives and any political discourse you may engage in.  It might help you to do this if you keep in mind that our kingdom is not of this world.  (If it were, Christ would have commanded us to fight.) The stakes of our temporal politics are only temporal, and salvation will never come through political conquest and domination, but through the proclamation of the gospel.  Indeed, Christ's power in us is manifested best when we are weak.

We cannot afford to be like those whose mind is set on earthly things. Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In His time He will subject all things to himself.

8 comments:

laurieg said...

Laurie,

thank you for posting this. It really spoke to me because I am so tired of the polarization, mockery, etc. that passes for political discourse.

I also found this to be personally convicting because we have a new supervisor at work who has earned nobody 's respect - deservedly so. However, this is a reminder to me to honor him in anything I say or do because he is in authority over me.

Another Laurie :-)

Betsy Markman said...

Well said!

Laurie M. said...

Laurie, thanks for stopping by. (Great name, by the way!) You know, it helps me to remember that the Apostle's Paul and Peter wrote these words when Nero was the emperor of Rome. I'm pretty sure none of us are, at this moment, being asked to honor anyone quite as overtly wicked as Nero!

WhiteStone said...

Well said! Thanks.

Marc Schooley said...

Amen, sister.

I hear you loud and clear. What a word. Please keep beating the drum on this...

Laurie M. said...

As the Lord leads, Marc. These are very troubling times....

John Child said...

Laurie,
I'm reading this a bit late but it was a well said word in season. Even here in Cape Town I heard one or two disparaging remarks about Pres Obama from Christians. I was caught off guard on one occasion & said nothing which I regret. I decided then if heard Pres Obama called an idiot of similar again I'd say something but it never happened again, which is good.
An ex-SA pastor & running friend in Clinton, NJ, was not supporting Obama but after the election wrote a letter to all his congregation - mainly Republican - asking them to accept the election & show honour & respect to Pres Obama, citing the usual Scriptures. I was glad & impressed.
Yours
John

Cindy said...

So glad I have finally ran across your blog! Not sure how I could have missed it until now.

One huge problem I have with politically-impassioned Christians is with their being so confident they are 'right', they have the 'right' to treat others any way they deem appropriate if it promotes their particular interpretation of what's 'right'.

And we know the depths to where that can lead just by reviewing church history.

Thanks for such an inarguable presentation of the truth!

Cindy@Baptist Taliban and Beyond