The Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports yesterday detailing the breadth of Russian social media disinformation campaigns in the US. One strategy caught my eye: the Russian-linked Internet Research Agency created a page it called “Army of Jesus.”
Targeting Christians, the group offered “free counseling to people with sexual addiction.” The phony counseling service was apparently intended to blackmail or manipulate people who used it.
In our post-Christian world, we should expect attacks on Christians to escalate. As I noted yesterday, standing for biblical truth in our culture requires significant courage.
But there’s more to the story.
“May your holidays be joyful, boozy and caffeinated!”
Consider these stories in the news:
One: “There are two must-haves for anyone looking to survive the holidays: coffee and booze, preferably served together in one easy-to-consume package.” So advises Huffington Post in an article offering “12 boozy coffee cocktails to help you get through the holidays.” The writer wishes for us, “May your holidays be joyful, boozy and caffeinated!”
Two: Meditation services in the US are a $1.2 billion industry. A Wall Street Journal article titled “Inner Peace Is a Booming Business” raises the curtain on the money and time some are spending to seek serenity.
Three: A father took his sons to Barnes & Noble recently, where they noticed a display called “Inspiring Books to Empower Young Readers.” The books included three memoirs by illegal aliens. Another book told a fictional story of a child arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at school while white classmates wearing “Make America Great Again” hats taunt him. No books reflecting a more conservative agenda were displayed.
Four: The New York Times tells us how to conduct a wedding whether we’re a minister or not. The article shows us how to get ordained online and then put together the ceremony. The column doesn’t consider even the concept of a wedding as a sacred act of worship and commitment (though it does include the Bible as a possible source for the “minister” to cite, along with “quotations from long-married family members, or something else”).
What do these stories have in common? If you’re like me, your first response to each was negative and critical. How unfortunate that Huffington Post would write about using alcohol to “get through the holidays,” or that so many people would lack personal peace, or that a bookseller would indoctrinate young people with a leftish agenda, or that the New York Times would teach us how to conduct nonreligious weddings.
Why courage isn’t enough
Now let’s reframe our responses in a less critical way:
What must life be like for people who have to use alcohol to survive Christmas? What internal chaos must people feel who spend so much time and money seeking serenity? If you had the political agenda apparently espoused by Barnes & Noble, wouldn’t you feature the books they display? (Would you even know of conservative options?) If religion means little to you or your friends, would you include it in a wedding you officiate?
Here’s my point: Responding to our culture requires courage but also compassion. It’s not enough to state biblical truth courageously and clearly. To manifest the spirit of Jesus, we must also understand the other side and respond by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
When our Lord met a sinful Samaritan woman at a well, he began their conversation with water and led her to his “living water” (John 4:14). He healed sick bodies to heal sick souls. He loved every person he met (cf. Mark 10:21) and responded to their needs out of compassion rather than condemnation.
Now he wants us to do the same.
How superiority serves Satan
An attitude of spiritual superiority accomplishes four goals of the enemy:
One: It blinds me to my own sins. Jesus asked, “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?” (Matthew 7:3).
Two: It keeps me from ministering effectively to others. Who enjoys spending time with judgmental people who consider themselves better than us?
Three: It keeps me from praying effectively for them. Oswald Chambers: “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.”
Four: It tempts me to pride, which “goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). If I refuse to commit a particular sin but then become proud of my holiness, Satan wins.
One of the consequences of our immoral culture is the sense of spiritual superiority it can engender in Christians who resist it. C. S. Lewis described the “inner ring” as composed of “the people who know.”
It is profoundly tempting to respond to those who reject biblical truth by rejecting them. In fact, the further they are from God, the more they need him.
“Don’t judge a man by where he is”
Humility is the fount from which courageous compassion drinks: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Francois Fenelon: “Whoever will labor to get rid of self, to deny himself according to the instructions of Christ, strikes at once at the root of every evil, and finds the germ of every good.”
C. S. Lewis made our point this way: “Don’t judge a man by where he is, because you don’t know how far he’s come.”
Pride produces pity, but humility produces compassion. Which would you rather receive? Which will you give today?