I know. I know. . . yet another blog on what took place at the “strange fire” conference. I’ve probably read one too many articles this week as well. I had an internal debate on whether or not to even write and add to something that has most likely been over-exaggerated-contemplated-instigated- you name it. But what I learned from the strange behavior following the “strange fire” conference actually has nothing to do with Driscoll, MacDonald, MacArthur, Johnson, insert your favorite Christian here. It has nothing to do with the cessationist vs. continuationist conversation either.
What I learned had more to do with the aftermath of the incident and a tendency that I’ve seen in the believing community; one that I think is destructive and un-Christlike. It’s this — an inclination to live hasty and defensive. In my experience, defensive living typically stems not from confidence in God or in the truth, but rather, from confidence in the making, confidence that is not fully developed, confidence in a truth that requires the expense of grace. We may have to come to grips with the fact that truth without grace is not really truth and grace without truth is not really grace. More than that, defensive living leads to slow hearing and fast speaking.
Defensive living leads to hasty comments like “Mark Driscoll is a wolf in sheep’s clothing’” Or, on the other side, “Blessed are the persecuted, Mark. Keep standing for the truth.”
Even a cursory glance at Mark Driscoll’s doctrine and ministry will show that he is not what the Bible describes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And, conversely, I’d challenge anyone playing the martyr card to ask an Egyptian Christian if Mark Driscoll is being persecuted for righteousness sake.
I’m not saying we should live and hide above the fray, running from every type of intellectual argument surrounding the truth. That is equally wrong. I appreciate the debate regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think it is incredibly important, and I think that people need to study the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, develop a conviction, and live accordingly. The importance of truth can hardly be over-stated. I’m not denying that. Always retreating to the safe “middle-ground” where there is no dissention is also dangerous. But, that’s not my point here.
My point here is that there’s a difference between being “ready to make a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) and living on the defense. Spirit-filled conviction leads to empathy not anger. “Be prepared” is harmful rather than helpful if “with gentleness and respect” is neglected. I’m convinced that too many Christians are living in “bite-back” mode. The more confident you are in the truth, the less defensive you will need to be, the more willing to show grace you will become. You’ll be quicker to hear, slower to speak, and slower to anger (to both believers and non-believers alike). Even when you whole-heartedly disagree, you’ll do so with an innate measure of respect, realizing that is a soul that you converse with.
Just take a reflective look at Christ’s ministry. No one in the history of the world was ever more sure of the truth and no one was ever more relaxed, humble, gentle, and sympathetic to the repentant and open heart.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19)