Let’s Not Be a Stumbling Block
Years ago, I received a call from a nurse at a local public elementary school. She was asking if I could help with a situation. When asked for the name of the family physician, the parents of a new student had written “Doctor Jesus” on the form. The nurse was not against the Christian faith but explained that they needed to know a physician they could get in touch with should this student have a medical problem. She had been unable to reason with the parents, so I addressed them and helped them understand the need to work cooperatively with the school.
This was a minor incident and I know the parents were as sincere as they could be. However, they failed to recognize that their “position of faith” really was not a positive witness to outsiders. It reminded me then of Paul’s statement to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside…” (Colossians 4:5, NKJV).
I recently had the same feeling when I saw a video clip with excerpts of various well-known preachers, some of whom are wonderful brothers. This “montage” had them making what I considered to be unwise statements about non-gospel-related issues, and I grimaced at how ignorant evangelical Christians were being portrayed through some of their statements.
I have no interest in criticizing any of these brothers. I’m sure someone could take isolated, de-contextualized “excerpts” from any of us and have us looking pretty bad. What I was challenged with was to make sure that I keep my words edifying and sensible—both with biblical sense and with common sense. If I’m going to be criticized, I want it to be because I’m preaching Jesus, not for non-gospel-related issues.
Here are three Scriptures that came to my mind as I was considering all of this:
Colossians 4:5-6 (TPT)
4 Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make him known.
6 Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith.
Romans 14:16, 22 (NASB)
16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil…
22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is the one who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
The first part of verse 22 in the Passion Translation reads: “Keep the convictions you have about these matters between yourself and God, and don’t impose them upon others.”
Matthew 7:6 (NKJV)
6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
I know that we will be criticized as preachers, but the question is what we will be criticized for. Paul said, “…we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23, NKJV). If I am criticized for preaching Jesus crucified and resurrected, I can handle that. What I don’t want is to make ill-informed and ill-advised statements that make Christianity look crazy in the eyes of those we are hoping to reach with the good news of Jesus.