Monday, February 7, 2011

Becoming Anti-Anti

In the upcoming edition of our church newsletter, Preparing and Proclaiming will be an article entitled: “How Sorry Do You Need to Be?" In it, I contrast how Protestants and Roman Catholics view repentance.

As I was writing the article, I tried to think through how what I was writing might sound to a Roman Catholic. I wanted to be fair while at the same time standing firm in my convictions and clearly articulating our differences.

I was reminded of one conversation with a Roman Catholic who had accused me of being “anti-Catholic.” The accusation had stung and completely caught me off guard. In my mind, I was being “pro-gospel” and not “anti” anything. To be “anti-Catholic” in my mind meant to target individuals of a certain creed unfairly and with hostility. I have many Catholic friends and I would never want to hurt them or treat them unfairly.

I don’t like being called anti-Catholic any more than I like being called anti-choice or anti-homosexual. Calling someone “anti-(fill-in-the-blank) is relatively easy. It means that you no longer need to deal with the substance of their objection. Instead, you merely attack their motives and lament their vitriolic attack on you.

For Christians who are committed to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, such comments are inevitable. I have a few thoughts about how we as Christians should respond:

First, we should boldly proclaim the gospel.

I would prefer to be known by what I am for than what I am against. My desire would be that those who know me would say that I am passionately pro-gospel.

Second, we should realize that we must sometimes stand against things.

Even though it is sometimes unpleasant, we are called upon by God to stand against things such as false teaching, injustice, and evil. For example, consider what Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-12:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Third, we should consider how our words sound to others.

When I disagree—strongly—with the Roman Catholic sacramental system as a means to achieving righteousness, I need to understand that there are many precious people who hold this system close to their hearts. When I attack it, it feels as though I am attacking them personally. It feels as though I am “anti-Catholic.”

Charity requires that we consider carefully how our words sound to those who are hearing them. Paul’s injunction to the Ephesians is one we would do well to heed: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).

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