I’ve been wrestling with a tension, typing and retyping this newsletter to get it right. Rather than speak authoritatively, however, I’ve resolved to simply set this tension before you, to allow you to wrestle along with me… and hopefully profit from the wrestling with me, too.
As we have been preaching on division in 1 Corinthians, I’ve been thinking on some recent experiences. Multiple times in the last month, I’ve had the experience of teaching a Bible study where an individual—knowingly or unknowingly—began speaking in polemical, political talking-points. Other times, individuals have raised concern about the “political” creeping into the church—from both sides. Yet other times, people have complained, “Pastor why don’t we preach on ____?” What’s the blank? Sex. Abortion. Racism. Homosexuality. Divorce. Addiction. These are competing interests. Speak on politics or not? Risk offending? Or stay silent?
Now, I want to be clear: I want Calvary to be a safe space for us to confess our faith. I want us to be able to unashamedly share the gospel in all its fullness. I don’t want anyone to feel censored here in their confession of the faith.
I also want Calvary to be a safe space for you to be able to say what you feel. Sometimes, that may mean expressing emotions. Other times, it may be expressing deeply held beliefs regarding morality. Other times, it might even be political views. This is all good. If Christ’s gospel is for all people, and if it has meaning for every part of our lives (it does!), then we shouldn’t feel that there’s anything we can’t talk about in Church. We want the gospel to speak into every corner of our lives. We want all we do and believe to be subject to Christ’s authority.
However, in the last few years, I have been made hyper-aware of the ways that one person “speaking their mind” can be received by another as a personal attack. Did the first person mean it that way? No... But it was received that way. How do we respond to this danger? We certainly don’t want a visitor to feel attacked when they’re here! Rather than dig in our heels and say, “They just shouldn’t be so sensitive,” consider what Paul says to the Christians in Corinth:
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified… ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2; 10:23-24)
Paul doesn’t immediately say what he feels without consideration for his neighbor; he filters his words through the lens of two questions: “Is this helpful?” and “Will this build up?” This is wise advice for our age! Rather than “react first, think later,” Paul encourages us to put Christ first, thoughts second, and words later. We hear similar advice in James: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (1:19)
Some of the best scriptural advice on this issue comes in Colossians: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (4:5–6) When we have visitors—or even are among Calvary members we don’t know well—maybe we should be cautious about what we say and how we say it! What’s the best path forward? I’m not sure there is a perfect answer for every scenario. We have to speak truth. But we also have to love our neighbor enough to speak that truth in a way they can hear and won’t shut down
immediately. So speak, but let your speech be “seasoned with salt.”
God’s Peace, Pastor Josh Reifsteck