Accusers vs. advocates: the real sides in the culture war

One of my favorite pastors Jonathan Martin of Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC recently preached a sermon called “Don’t Stand Up For Jesus.” Listen to it here. His point was that Jesus can stand up for Himself. What we should be doing is standing with Jesus while He stands up for sinners as their advocate and intercessor, instead of thinking we have to “defend” Jesus by signing online petitions, saying we’re not going to take it anymore through our facebook status updates, or eating chicken sandwiches. Jonathan was responding to the tendency of Christians to get sucked into the never-ending, all-consuming argument in our society that we call the culture war. As Jonathan talked, I realized that the real battle in the culture war is not between liberals and conservatives, but between advocates and accusers. Those who take the side of Jesus join Him in His role as the advocate for sinners (1 John 2:1); those who take the side of Satan join him in his role as the accuser (Revelation 12:10). The battle between Jesus and Satan takes place on every side of the surface battle that we think is going on.

John 8:2-11 illustrates perfectly the type of stance that Jesus would take in our culture wars. The Pharisees brought him an adulteress who was caught in the act of the adultery. The Biblical law of Moses was clear. They were commanded to stone her to death. So they asked Jesus what they should do, knowing that He could not go against the Torah. Jesus’ famous response was to say, “You that are without sin cast the first stone.” So one by one, they walked away, and Jesus asked the woman who remained to condemn her, saying, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” Somebody will point out that Jesus’ lack of condemnation doesn’t mean he didn’t acknowledge her sin. That’s true, but she is given the means of being convicted by her sin precisely in his lack of condemnation for that sin.

That’s the amazing thing about grace. Our realization that God forgives our sins is how we discover we actually have sins that need to be forgiven. Accusation does not bring about conviction for sinful behavior. Accusation brings about defensiveness. When people are attacked for their behaviors or beliefs, they take consolation in their persecution, which becomes “injustice,” regardless of whether it’s warranted or not. Then the question becomes whether the accuser is being self-righteous and judgmental. Of course there are circumstances in which personal sin has to be called out, but we are told in Matthew 18:15-20 to do this in private with great discretion.

The primary public stance that Christians should be taking is to tell people in the world that God loves them and has provided a means for us to live in authentic, richly meaningful community together. Sin should be dealt with inside the community of people who share the common presumption of God’s mercy that makes speaking the truth in love possible and productive. We should absolutely vote for our convictions in political elections. And I think we can speak out on our convictions publicly insofar as they are relevant to actual decision-making processes like city council meetings and so forth. But to spend all our time sharing articles and making snarky comments on the Internet in the never-ending, time-sucking meme war that has nothing to do with building the kingdom is a waste of God’s time (and yes, I’ve done it too).

What’s more relevant than whether or not we eat at Chick-Fil-A is whether or not we take pleasure in trashing other people. Satan, whose name means “accuser” in Hebrew, gets his power from our love of accusation. Accusation always begets more accusation. A world filled with accusers who are blind to their own sin and the mercy God has shown them is a world under the dominion of Satan. On the contrary, a world filled with people who stick up for the dignity of their ideological opponents is a world in which Satan is getting beaten up by love. Love is a much more compelling argument than the most ruthlessly impeccable logic. As Christians, our vocation is to love Satan out of the world in the same way that Jesus showed us. It wasn’t the sinners who crucified Jesus; it was the Pharisees whose purpose in living flawless lives was to gain the license to denounce and accuse others, the work of Satan.

There are accusers on every side of every argument. They are the ones who cannot share their own convictions without demonizing other people and making all sorts of cynical assumptions about their motives. Right now, there are a ton of liberal accusers who aren’t interested in understanding where Chick-Fil-A’s Cathy brothers are coming from in their passion for supporting marriage in a society filled with divorce. They’re just “bigots.” It’s a label that encompasses the whole of their identity and delegitimizes every kind, Christlike thing that they’ve ever done. There are also conservative accusers who cannot imagine what it feels like to be called an “abomination” for having an identity that you’ve genuinely wrestled with and agonized over for years until you finally come to the place of saying this is just who I am and I’m not going to repress it or hide it any longer. People who are advocates like Jesus don’t condone bigotry or any other sin. They simply realize that love is always the first step and arguing with people outside of a covenant disciple relationship is not the Biblical method for spiritual growth and sanctification from sin.

There’s definitely a place for public prophecy in confronting the sins of society, and I’m not always sure where the line falls between prophecy and accusation. But I do know that when Jesus was confronted with a sinner caught in the act of adultery, he took her side over her accusers. We should do likewise anytime we see people having their character assassinated, especially when they are ideological opponents, because “the insults that fall on [them] have fallen on [our savior]” (Romans 15:3). Paul offers a critically important distinction in 1 Corinthians 13:6, “Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” Yes, tell the truth, by all means. Speak truth to power. But don’t take pleasure in exposing other peoples’ evil, however legitimate, because when you delight in evil, you are doing the work of Satan. The loudest words that people should hear from Christians are not the accusations that the Accuser exploits to keep people eternally separated from God, but the invitation from our Advocate for sinners to come to His table and eat.

15 thoughts on “Accusers vs. advocates: the real sides in the culture war

  1. Hi! I realize this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.

    Does building a well-established website such as yours
    take a massive amount work? I am completely new to operating a blog however
    I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any ideas or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

    • I started off in May 2011 averaging about 30 hits a day. Two years in, I average 1000 hits a day. To maintain that at this point, I pretty much need to blog daily. If/when you get into another tier like Rachel Held Evans, you only have to blog 3-4 times a week and maintain constant traffic. It’s about a 3 hour a day habit at this point.

      It’s very much an I scratch your back if you scratch mine kind of thing. Make yourself useful and familiar to bloggers who write about stuff you want to write about. Comment on their sites. Try to be genuinely engaged and don’t post links to your blog in the comment section because that looks tacky. Send inbox msgs to friends on Facebook asking if they’ll share your blog on their wall when you’re getting started. Join Facebook groups where they discuss things that you want to write about.

      Reddit is a great place to share things but participate in the forum or they’ll resent you for spamming. Write blogs where you link to what other bloggers have written. If I see traffic coming to me from your blog, then I’ll go to it. Look for blogs that welcome guest posts and submit them.

      To get a viral post, you have to gain a sense of the pulse of the blogosphere. It will usually involve commentary on a controversial event. If it’s just spiritual autobiography, then you’re not going to get a lot of hits but maybe that’s not important to you.

      In order to grow, you’ll have to capitalize on things that make you feel disgusted with yourself. That’s the trade off. Some of my most popular posts have been things like sucking up to Tim Tebow, going off on the pastor who shortchanged her waiter and got busted for it on reddit, etc. It felt dirty to capitalize on them but it drew a crowd.

      So I hope that helps.

  2. Pingback: A review of my election-related blog posts « Mercy not Sacrifice

  3. We all, myself included, love to use the story of the adulteress to show how Jesus turned the establishment of the day on it’s head. We tend to use this to espouse a softer approach when it comes to confronting sin, unfortunately sometimes to the point of overlooking sin to the point of condoning it. A big difference is that the Jews knew what a sin was, something we struggle with today, this made Jesus non-condemnation to the woman bite to her very soul because she understood she was sinning. However Jesus did not always deal with sin in this way, he was very accusatory and in your face regarding the sin of the Pharisees. Matt 23:25.

    That said I appreciate that your post does acknowledge that we need to “Speak truth to power. But don’t take pleasure in exposing other peoples’ evil, however legitimate, because when you delight in evil, you are doing the work of Satan.” and in your response to Pierre, “I would say don’t weigh in on your “positions” outside the context of a relationship of trust where your opinion might actually be influential in someone else’s life.” That’s key, you need to build a relationship if you want to truly want to influence someone.

    I think SSM is wrong but the civil legality of it doesn’t threaten me. Whether it is legal or not doesn’t change my view of it. Just as it is not illegal for a man and woman to sleep together outside of marriage doesn’t mean I don’t see that as a sin. So I agree that this public battle, this culture war, does little to further the Kingdom of God.

  4. Morgan, I read your post on the Red Letter Christian site, and I just wanted to thank you for a very clear, articulate and biblical point of view. Thank you for putting into words what some of us wish we had the ability to so plainly say to begin with.

  5. Great post Morgan, I’ll be honest I don’t even know how to apply this in dealing with this issue. I mean when people ask me my stance on SSM, I tell them that God created marriage for men and women. That comment alone is divisive in today’s society. That comment is even classified as unloving among certain Christians. I do get upset when I see people use scripture to suppoort SSM; its just not there. I have to learn how to respond to these things in a Christ-like manner, but I just don’t now how. If I could I would. I really wanted to share a more emcompassing message with believers and non-belivers.

    • I would say don’t weigh in on your “positions” outside the context of a relationship of trust where your opinion might actually be influential in someone else’s life. Just don’t engage when people are arguing. Just say, “Love you man” or something like that. The enemy is always trying to bait us. We have a ridiculously high standard to live up to. It’s hard but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to do it.

  6. Thank you for this very helpful and Biblical way of framing the issue of dealing with sin. I am rethinking some of my own behavior and tweets as a result. I have posted this on the United Methodist Clergy page on facebook. You may want to watch the comments and dialogue there.

  7. So true! I worry sometimes that some in the Church are becoming more like the Pharisees, than Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Great post…I have actually been advocating almost the exact same stance in almost every conversation I have. So many people talking about this, but missing the point. A whole lotta talk going around, without a whole lotta love. If you didn’t see it RLC has a similar post today from Kathy Vestal, causing quite the stir. Keep up the great work!

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