Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
The world, to an alarming degree, has become exceedingly rude and boisterous. This is even true – unfortunately – of people who claim to be Christians. We’ve seen it time and time again where what a person thinks comes out of their mouths as though any filter they had between thought and speech evaporated.
I, along with many, sometimes have a difficult time assessing the situation and providing a reasonable response; what we might call a loving and thoughtful response to a situation. I’m sure if you were honest with yourself, you’d have to admit this same problem occurs in your life as well. Often without thinking, we simply react to situations or words hastily or harshly spoken by someone else. We take no time to allow thoughts to be properly formed into words that do not attack. We simply go on the offensive after someone says or does something that puts on the defensive. Think about driving, if you can’t put your finger quickly on something. When someone cuts you off in traffic, how do you respond?
It really is alarming in many ways the way in which people act and this should clearly not be part of the Christian’s life. When faced with situations that cause average people to rebuff another in anger, Christians should be the last person to respond the way the world responds. No matter how well you think yourself calm and collected, there are likely situations that occur that simply get your dander up. When that happens, you might easily fly off the handle and say or do things that are unbecoming a Christian. It happens to me as well.
Look around. Everywhere in today’s society there are people and groups who are filled with anger, vitriol, sarcasm, and the desire to vent these things on the nearest person who happens to disagree with them. We see this currently with Black Lives Matter. We see the lies, the illegal actions (blocking traffic, looting, destruction of property, beating up innocent people), and we are bereft.
We hear politicians who lie to us daily and in spite of many of their legal lapses, continue to escape prosecution. They continue on as though nothing they did had even a hint of illegality to it and attempt to turn tables on people who stand with mouths open at the sheer audacity of their response.
How is it possible to resist the urge to respond in kind? How can we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), as we are commanded in Scripture? How can we keep our feelings on a matter from causing us to react in a way that dishonors our Lord? Sure, if we try hard enough, we can use our “trusty” willpower to help us handle the situation. But while that might help us keep from saying or doing something we would regret, it doesn’t necessarily change the way we feel on the inside nor does it ultimately change us with any form of permanence. There must be a better way.
The art of being able to respond from the heart in a way that reduces hostility is something that all people – especially Christians – need to have and exercise. I think back over my life and remembering some of the ways in which I blurted out some sarcastic rejoinder to someone makes me shudder. I’m not saying that anger itself is never appropriate. I’m saying that as Scripture tells us, we should learn how to be angry and refrain from sinning (Ephesians 4:26). At the same time, as Paul notes in that verse, if we allow our anger to last long and into the next day, we are also doing something wrong (“…let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” v. 26b).
We humans like to excuse our anger, our sarcasm, our vitriol by providing ourselves with many excuses to say and do what we want. Yet, if we look at the life of Jesus, we do not see this in action and there is a huge reason why this is not the case for Him.
We think our day is different. Certainly, in many ways it is different due to technology. But life during Roman times was a case study in the same political correctness that guides much of society today. We’re simply living among different people than those of Roman times, but by and large, non-Christians (atheists, agnostics, and the pagan religious), generally still think today as people did during Jesus’ day. Satan keeps things going.
Yet, in spite of the power of political correctness and evil that led Roman society, Jesus presented a stark example of a person who lived life completely committed to living it in such a way that God the Father was always glorified. In whatever He said or did, even during those times He got angry, Jesus never sinned. This is something that really needs to sink into our hearts and minds. He always had the right word and the right way to say it.
How did Jesus do this? He did so because of humility that gave birth to tactfulness. You cannot have real, honest tact without some sense of humility. You can appear to have tact even if you’re not truly humble but that tact is something that is purely put on from the outside and has no ability to change within. It never goes that deep.
In short, Jesus lived a life of tactfulness that was born of a real, honest humility. He always used tact because He was always humble, even when He reprimanded a ruler or His own disciples. He never spoke a word of discouragement for discouragement’s sake. He was never sarcastic with people even when He got angry. He never destroyed a person’s value or worth as a human being. He came to save sinners and we are all sinners and that tells us that in spite of our sin nature and faults, God still sees us as valuable, something we often forget to see in others. How often do we treat other people as though they are truly beneath us or lacking in value? Jesus did not do that and He would be the only One who was actually qualified to do so if He had chosen. Yet, His love compelled Him to act in a way that was thoroughly tactful.
Regarding tact, William Hendriksen makes the following statement:
[Tact] is that skill which, without any sacrifice of honesty or candor, enables a person to speak the right word at the right time, and to do the proper thing in any given situation. It is premeditated prudence, sanctified mother wit, consecrated savior faire. The tactful person does not shirk his duty even when he is convinced that he must admonish or rebuke. But he has learned the art of dong this without being rude. He is humble, patient, and kind. The apostle Paul draws his picture in 1 Cor. 13.
God himself is the archetype or model of tactfulness to be imitated by men, as Isa. 28:23-29 teaches so strikingly. – (The Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon, 1964, p. 231)
Would you agree with me that God the Son always used the exact correct approach in His dealings with humanity? To understand the virtue that is tact, it would be very helpful to pull from the life of Jesus to see exactly how He responded in various situations and we’ll look at some of those situations in our next part of this series.
Before we get there though, one thing we can all do is to begin praying that God would build within us a deep-seated sense of humility. This is what creates tact from within. Will you do that? I’ll do the same.