How Appropriate is Aggressive Confrontation for Jesus?

John ArmstrongReligion

A friend sent me a 68 second video clip from CNN that I invite you to view. I found it stunning for several reasons that I will later explain. I would love to provoke a "serious" dialog about this video clip and see if some of you can help us all find better ways to reach our culture with the gospel of Christ. Without further comment from me watch the clip.

Now, my questions. Are these three Christians in the Senate chamber acting courageously? Are they right in what they actually pray? Should they have been there taking these actions in this place? What do their actions say about who we all are as Christians today. How should we appropriately respond to the presence of numerous non-Christian religions that now share the public religious platform with us in modern America? What should a genuinely missional Christian do in the face of modern pluralism and the various false teachings that confront the one true faith as it is revealed in Jesus Christ alone?

I find these actions, by the extremely zealous Christians, totally out of line. They were courageous but very foolish, completely unwise. Christian love is "kind" and it is "does not dishonor others" according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Another translation of 1 Corinthians 13 says love is never "rude." These actions, regardless of the truths uttered about abomination, were simply rude and unkind. Every one with an ounce of common sense can see this on the video, indeed you feel it. I felt embarrassed, not because of Christ and his glory but because of bad behavior by those who likely share the same basic faith claims that I do. I teach bold Christian evangelism as a profession and I know the history of the early Christians in evangelism (cf. Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church) and I assure you this behavior is not consistent with how Rome was transformed by the gospel.

Secondly, we no longer live in a culture where we have the power to make others conform to Christian thought and practice, even if we ever did have it in the first place or should have it ever in the future. To confront error in this manner does our mission, that of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus over all people and cultures, great harm. We  must promote his Lordship, even over the U. S. Senate, but the issue here is the manner in which it should be done. The Christian Right has fostered "confrontation" as the primary means of expression. This video is a reflection of that style and approach. It will only please those who are angry and want to fight back against the losses that we have sustained in the culture. It is not a strategy of victory but of final defeat. We win people not simply by right words, which we should already know, but by right actions. The actions taken here are inconsistent with the mission of Jesus. They only make our job harder in terms of faithful witness.

Third, I do not believe Ephesians 6:10-20, and the biblical teaching on spiritual warfare, supports this type of behavior at all. Our warfare, the apostle tells us, "is not with flesh and blood." Our warfare is not even with false religions but with the spirits behind false teaching. We can honor and love false teachers and tolerate their practices in a civil way (not of course within the Christian Church where the principles are quite different) without surrendering the battle image that we are clearly called to by Paul. Our problem is not with battle but with wrong tactics in the battle.

Finally, I expect more of this kind of confrontation to take place in the future, not less. Christians tried to regain power in America by the ballot box and we changed nothing in the wider culture. (I grant that we improved the Supreme Court makeup but that is about it on the moral front, at least nationally.) Since 1980 Christians have actively pursued political power as if this was their primary role in the society. (Christians should run for office, be involved in government and raise moral and social issues!) We have had direct access to the White House and what has it done to make the church more like Christ? What has it done to restore the heart of God’s people to the Lord? What has it done to truly change the minds and hearts of young people who are leaving the church in droves, now more than ever in American history.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Pro or con, this discussion desperately needs to take place. This video creates a context for it better than almost anything I’ve seen in years.