The Bible talks about being a peacemaker, but it also talks about confronting others about sin, so how are we supposed to do both?
A young man, an avowed atheist, asked Ravi Zacharias in a public forum, “Since the Bible has been scientifically disproven as far as all the claims, through the theory of evolution, archeology, Noah’s Ark — since we know this didn’t happen because of science nowadays…” The young man trailed off then said, “My question is how do we have, according to the Bible, free will if God is this omniscient being that knows everything about us, everything we will do, and he pretty much knows our outcome before we were even created.
“Since we can’t surprise him by our actions, we have no free will. Our choices have been predetermined, and the act of judgment is completely immoral because he knows what we’re going to do.”
After gently but firmly debunking the idea of science disproving the Bible with quotes from several famous agnostic scientists, Ravi addressed the young man, “Ethan, what you’re wrestling with is not uncommon. Many people from a scientific and materialism worldview will say what you’ve said and come to the same conclusion.
“The problem is what you mispositioned was your concern between determinism and free will…. At Cambridge, I listened to a talk at the Lady Mitchell Hall in 1990 by Steven Hawking. As you know, he can’t speak. He uses a speech synthesizer. His whole talk was on determinism and freedom.
“And you know what he concluded? That the tragedy with scientific materialism, if we take all its assumptions, is that we are not free. We are totally determined.
“That was the world’s leading physicist at that time, saying that the very thing you’re pinning on the Christian faith, he pinned on your backs.” The young man tried to qualify, which Ravi listened to for a moment, then he answered, “You have to ask yourself, are you making a truth claim? If you are making a truth claim, you are rising above the bondage of total subjectivity. And the moment you claim a truth claim, you’re violating determinism.”
Commandment 11: Thou Shalt Be Nice
Paul writes instructions to the Corinthian church that would definitely not go over well today, were the letter to show up on people’s doorsteps.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, ESV).
This sounds a tad aggressive for good Christ-followers who are loving and forgiving and all that. Is this kind of assertiveness really necessary? What if people are hurt or upset by what we say?
In a World Challenge staff devotion, Voddie Baucham who serves as a missionary in Zambia pointed out, “I’ve often said that there is an eleventh commandment, and the eleventh commandment is Thou shalt be nice; and if we're honest, most Christians don't believe the other ten, right? Everything comes down to ‘you have to be nice.’
“If you say something that is truthful, it doesn't matter if people think that you weren't being nice. If we broke that down even more, nice refers to not being manly because if you do anything in a forthright and manly way — if you plant your feet, square your shoulders, lift your head up high and say something that doesn't die the death of a thousand qualifications — people will accuse you of not being nice….
“In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, beginning there in verse 1, ‘I Paul myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.’ How ironic. He's talking about the meekness and gentleness of Christ. ‘I who am humble when face to face with you but bold toward you when I am away.’ By the way, that's a charge that's being leveled against him when you see this later on. ‘I beg you that when I am present, I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.’ That's what you call a veiled threat.
“That's not mealymouthed niceness right there, right? That is Paul basically saying that when he shows up, there's going to be trouble….
“Telling people that they're wrong, that's not very nice. Evangelism, not very nice. Calling people to repentance, talking to people about hell. Again, not very nice, and those people have real problems with passages like this [2 Corinthians 10:3-6], but I think it's because they don't understand these passages rightly.”
Making War on Evil Nicely?
The Bible does make it clear that there is value in peacekeeping. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
Scripture makes it equally clear, however, that we are to take an active part in dealing with sin in ourselves, each other and the world. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him” (Titus 3:10).
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
Paul even says that the Bible is key in doing this; it offers us an objective basis for confrontation that can help keep subjective feelings and experiences out of the mix.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
While we are teaching and correcting, though, we are still called to be gracious, merciful and peacemakers. Christ instructed his own disciples to take a long look at themselves and their own issues before they attempted to correct someone else in Matthew 7:1-6 with the well-known line “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
Once we have an accurate assessment of our own broken state and God’s graciousness when dealing with us, then we’re ready to approach the other person.
As Paul told the early church, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Sin cannot be allowed to run rampant and unchecked in our communities or those relationships will eventually be destroyed, but how we address other people is equally important. What is in our hearts as we speak to them? Do we actually see them or just their problems? Are we trying to honor God in what we say? Is what we’re saying based out of the Bible?
We must answer these questions honestly before we speak. The most painful truths can still be spoken in love.