Since we launched Jackass Theology, the question has come in many different forms: When is it okay to argue with someone over theology? Should we ever confront people with heretical views?
It’s an important question. Here are 5 quick things to consider:
1. Diversity and Disagreement Are Wonderful
Diversity is wonderful. Diversity is necessary. Diversity inherently means that we will passionately disagree. Disagreement is not the problem. No matter how much we try to get others to see from our perspective, many won’t. So disagreement is ALWAYS ALLOWED. In fact, I will say: disagreement should be celebrated. It means that we are exactly as God intended us to be: DIVERSE. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t make us jackasses, it’s how we treat people when we disagree.
2. The Holy Spirit Is Better than Jesus
Those are Jesus’ words. He said that it was better for the Holy Spirit to lead his disciples than for him to continue to lead the disciples (John 16:7). That’s kind of important. If I give you a rule or law about when it is okay to argue and when it is not, without a doubt there will be a million little exceptions to the rule. (Just look in the English language: I before E, EXCEPT after C…) So the minute we make a rule, we then need to talk about all the exceptions, which shows us the shortcoming of law in general. The New Testament is all about how the living Spirit is better than the law, and even better than Jesus being our homeboy. Law is limited. Law can protect. Law can be a tutor, but law is not life.
So when must I confront, wrong thinking? Bottom line: There is no rule. We must come to trust the Holy Spirit in doing our best to be like Jesus in each and every situation.
Turn to Galatians 5 and look at the works of the flesh (jealousy, division, strife, etc.). Compare those to the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.). If love, peace, and joy demand that you carefully and lovingly speak up, and the Holy Spirit is prompting you to say something, by all means, DO IT (Paul did; so did Jesus). But make certain it is because you love the person, and not because they are offensive to you, or because you are putting yourself in a place of superiority. LOVE LISTENS—A LOT.
3. Jesus Confronted Religious Hypocrisy
Most of Jesus’ confrontations dealt with the fact that dead religion had failed to bring life to the people of God. Jesus confronted all the things that get in the way of our absolute surrender to him and the Kingdom.
A guiding metaphor in the Gospels is that of a tree. Israel was like a tree, once alive, but so much of their religious systems and practices caused them to miss the heart of God, and ultimately the Messiah. Jesus came to prune the dead religion. When he confronted religious leaders, he was bringing new life by tearing down what was dead.“When you see RELIGION taking the place of SPIRITUAL LIFE, I believe we have a mandate to lovingly challenge the dead things we have allowed to take the place of a vital, passionate, dynamic relationship with God.”
So when you see RELIGION taking the place of SPIRITUAL LIFE, I believe we have a mandate to lovingly challenge the dead things we have allowed to take the place of a vital, passionate, dynamic relationship with God. (Bruxy Cavey (@bruxy) has a tremendous book on this subject, called The End of Religion. Read it!)
4. Paul Wrote to Churches that Were Losing the Gospel
Paul regularly wrote to churches at risk of losing the Gospel. This is a great model of when to speak up. But the call is to protect the simple heart of the Gospel. Jesus died for your sin. Everyone who believes is included. DO NOT ADD YOUR CULTURAL PREFERENCES TO IT! This is what the Jews and Gentiles did and it created unnecessary rifts. Paul called churches back to the Gospel as a means of restoring unity rather than creating more factions.
5. “Who Is My Neighbor” Is a Jackass Question
In Luke 10, when a lawyer was trying to weasel his way out of Jesus’ command to love his neighbor, he asked: “Who is my Neighbor?” He wanted there to be an exception.“We often ask questions like ‘Who is my neighbor’ or ‘When am I allowed to confront people’ to get out of the high call to love EVERYBODY, prodigal and Pharisee alike.”
The better question is: “What does love demand of me?” Sometimes love demands some difficult conversations. Sometimes love demands confrontation. But in every single situation love demands patience, kindness, and self-control. In every case, love means always hoping, always trusting, always persevering. If you’re tempted to think of this route as a copout, consider Paul’s statement: “love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8).