Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kevin DeYoung Is Not The Enemy

I don't know Kevin DeYoung. I have read some of what he's written, but I don't keep up with his blog. What I am about to say may sound like a defense of Kevin DeYoung, it's not. I simply name Mr. DeYoung as one who comes to mind when I think about this topic.

Efforts to publicly shame, mock (we call it humor), and ridicule fellow believers for their wrongness is an arrogant misguided attempt to discredit them. From the confessions stated on The Gospel Coalition website (confessions of Kevin DeYoung by association), I doubt anyone reading this would disagree with the essentials of Christianity articulated there. I am certain we would not all agree on the vision for their ministry, or non-essentials, and that's O.K. It's not our ministry.

Disagreeing with someone over theology, denominational practices and traditions, or ministry mission and vision is not wrong. In fact, thoughtful and considerate discourse is healthy. Sadly, that healthy form of dialogue is infrequent at best. There is another kind of "conversation" that seems to me to be more and more frequent. Not only is it not healthy, it is hurtful. I have no doubt you have noticed it too - it includes mocking, shaming, and accusing those we disagree with.

Are we free to mock others? Yes. Are we free to shame and accuse others? Yes. Jesus paid for every last drop of sin on our behalf. Free. That is the song of every Christian. The good news is that even though we will continue to mess up and make unwise and stupid decisions, the Lord has forgiven all our sin and gives new mercies every morning.

I'm always amazed when I think about the fact that Jesus, fully God and fully man, walked this earth and did not sin. Constrained by love, he walked in obedience to his Father. We can only hope that the love of Christ would constrain us more and more, that the love of Jesus would soften our hard hearts and melt away our ferocious desire to be right, and that the love of Christ would motivate more love for our brothers and sisters. Love can motivate our hearts to respond to our doctrinal and theological differences with life-giving conversation. Love can fan the flame of desire for the kinds of conversations that go further than mere tolerance of another viewpoint and move us toward acceptance. Acceptance of a person - a person of value, worth, and uniqueness.

The gospel frees us to accept people for who they are without having to agree with what they believe.

Brothers and sisters, I may disagree with you, but you are not my enemy.

I became a Christian fifteen years ago. One sunny June morning I realized as I left the sanctuary of a beautiful Methodist Church, that I was leaving different from when I walked in. I stumbled my way around the Bible and Christianity over the course of the next year. I sought out my pastor for answers. He was always gracious and eager to help with even the most elementary of questions I had as a new believer. I recently read an email from that first year in which I wrote to ask him about Lent. My question was simply, "Why do we celebrate Lent if it is not in the Bible." I sat barely moving as I read his response. In the first paragraph he explained legalism. He went on to explain biblical principles. He then explained Lent, tradition, and denominational practices. His three page response was grace-filled and informative. He closed by pleading with me to ask more questions. He encouraged my thoughtful inquiry and my eagerness to understand the truths of my newfound faith. He never once condemned me for what was in all honesty, a legalistic inquiry. He did not make fun of me. He did not rebuke, chastise, condemn, or belittle. He treated me with respect, love, and sincerity. Reading that response gave me a picture of gospel discourse as I seek to interact with others of differing beliefs, theologies, and perspectives.

In love, interact.

With grace, disagree.

Pointing to Jesus, agree.

Maybe instead of being against someone, we can be for them - in Jesus' name.

As I said, this is not a defense. It is a rally - a rally around our only hope - Jesus.

Scotty Smith prays for all of us in this poignant post and I think he gets it right. That Jesus would give us wisdom and grace to know how to relate to faultfinders, conspiracy-hunters, liberty-smashers and self-appointed prosecuting attorneys as well as those friends who have turned Christian liberty into epicurean fantasies—"Eat, drink, and be merry, for we have a big gospel!"

The reality is, I find I am both. Free and bound, at the same time. I love the freedom the gospel gives me, however, in some areas of my life I still want to sniff out conspiracy. It is not as cut and dry as I want it to be. It is more messy than I'm comfortable with. Am I licentious? Yes. Am I legalistic? Yes. For all of the ways I am planted in each camp, I need Jesus.


...invade my heart.

Assure me of your great love for rebels, attorneys, the older brother and the younger. Show me the liberating freedom of the gospel and the hilarity of the party you've invited me to...

...I would much rather go in and dance.

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