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11.05.2010

Conviction and Compromise: Where's the Line?


On a completely side note: my grandpa was briefly a
professional boxer, even sparring with a then unknown
Joe Lewis. Grandpa later was saved and called to be a pastor.
This isn't him, btw ;)
First, let me say that I am neither a theologian, nor do I claim to be any kind of authority on Scripture, but am merely writing and trying to express something that has been keeping me awake at night and that I've been feeling quite uneasy about. 
I, like everybody else, have certain convictions which are derived from Scripture and as of late have been struggling with how to maintain those convictions whilst being patient and loving with my brethren(I mean sisters, too when I say brethren) in Christ. How can I lovingly and peaceably get along without compromising what I feel is plain in Scripture?
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."- Jude 1:3
We are to contend or struggle/fight for the truth of our faith, for the very gospel that saves us through Jesus Christ. And many have done so throughout Scripture and history, even laying down their own lives for the sake of truth, and some have taken it to the extreme of killing others to keep the faith pure. (I am not trying to instigate a discussion as to whether or not persons deemed heretics should've been put to death, nor am I trying to defend or negate those individuals who participated in such things. But encourage you, before you pass judgement on them or their teaching to remember that God only uses flawed men and women in His work, because there isn't any other kind of people. Noah got drunk and naked, in front of his family no less, even after God had killed almost every living creature from off the face of the earth in judgement for unrighteousness. Abraham lied about his wife Sarah and gave her over to another man to wife, disregarding whatever harm or hazard could and probably would befall her as a result. Jacob cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing by plotting against and lying to his own father. David committed adultery and then murdered to cover it up. Solomon had a passion for many women, including the forbidden foreign women, and in his seeking to please his own lust for them committed himself to idolatry in worshipping their false gods. The list could go on and on. The point being that their sins don't negate that God used them in spectacular and purposeful ways to further His kingdom and bring glory to His name.) I want to be the kind of person that would die for the sake of the gospel. I want to be so earnest in my willingness to be under the authority of Scripture that nothing would keep me from being faithful to it. But I know that I am still in a body of flesh, and am ever struggling against myself, and am often being overtaken in that struggle. I often feel like Peter. I am so willing to rush into the fight that I often go on impulse instead of resting in Christ's power and authority. My desire to defend God and His Word sometimes gets ahead of my trusting that He is more than capable of defending Himself. 
Here is my conundrum. Where do I draw the line? How can I stay true to a literal reading of Scripture and yet be loving and patient and peaceful with my brethren in Christ without compromising truth? I'm sure I'm not the first, nor will be the last to have this question berating my mind, nor will I never face it again, but for now it's really bothering me. (BTW a great source for biblical answers to these kinds of questions is 9 Marks Ministries .)
One of the first Scriptures that comes to my mind is Philippians 2:1-4 (click link for context). "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
The text here in Philippians doesn't contradict Jude 1:3. We are to "contend for the faith", but we are to seek to be "likeminded" and to be of "one mind" all who are in Christ. Why? Because of the consolation/encouragement found in Christ, the comforting love and fellowship in the Holy Spirit that should be found in all believers, and the affection and sympathy/mercy between the brethren. That brings joy; it fulfills our joy. We are commanded to have the "same love" for one another, not striving intentionally and selfishly or seeking our own way to gain glory or for the sake of pride. We are to address one another in all humility/lowliness, even to the point of esteeming others "better than ourselves", looking to their interests first and not to our own. 
Sounds great, but how does it really work? 
One of the first questions I found myself asking was: Am I pursuing what I feel is a biblical conviction (assuming the conviction is Scripturally defendable), with the needs and interests of others being greater than my own, in humility, love, and mercy? This is a hard question to face for me. I feel so strongly, and yet would I feel as strongly about it, if I were to think of others before myself? I am called to love my neighbor as myself  , and yet love isn't compromise. Love rejoices in truth, and doesn't rejoice in sin/iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6 ). The most loving thing you can do is to tell the truth. Yes, it hurts in the moment, but always feels better for both parties in the end. (Think of sharing the gospel. It would be much more painful for a lost person to not hear the truth about their sinful nature and the inevitable wrath of God that awaits us all apart from Christ's atoning sacrifice being imputed to us for righteousness.)
So, I must be truthful, and in so doing be loving to my brethren, going in all humility with their interests placed before my own with my convictions. (To be continued in next post....)

2 comments:

Ruth said...

Hi Sarah,
I was so blessed by your post over at "At The Well," that I had to come and visit you!

There are many things that I feel stongly about. I'll just name a couple. Wearing dresses and having longer unmasculine hair. There are sisters in the Lord I know who do not agree with me. I know if I do not do what God wants me to do, in any area, I am in disobedience to God.

When I was in Bible College, one student asked our professor, "What is the difference between a conviction and a preference?"

He answered with one statement. "Convictions you would die for."

God has commanded us to love everyone, believer and unbeliever. He has made it clear that we are not to have fellowship with unbelievers or those who are not in fellowship with the Lord.

To be in the world but not of it, does cause us to stand out. Some of us might look like a sore thumb (to those believers who need to straighten up a few areas in their life). Some a beacon of light (to those living in darkness who need the Lord).

I believe the closer we get to the Master, the more clearly we hear Him. God will direct us as we sesire to be more like Him. There are many Christians who say they are following Christ, but have no desire to be like Him.

I'm sorry to have written so much. I too struggle with this area and look forward to reading pt 2.
Many blessings to you,
Ruth

Sarah : ) said...

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom :)
BTW, I've always loved the name Ruth!