Deceptive Apology

Let me paint a picture.

Two people. Bob and Steve. They are both at a volleyball game. Steve is a player in the game while Bob is rooting for the other team.

Bob starts yelling just as Steve’s team serves. Several times it seems like Bob’s yells cause Steve’s team’s serve to be bad.

Finally Steve steps up to serve and Bob yells again and Steve’s serve is woefully low and fails to go over the net.

Steve glares a Bob for a short second, Bob realizes that he was wrong to do that and apologizes to Steve, stating that he did not intend for that to happen.

It seems like a great tale of Christians striving with one another even though they are imperfect. Bob was clearly wrong, and when he was convicted of wrongdoing (primarily through Steve’s glare) he immediately repented and apologized to Steve.

However all is not as it seems. You see, Bob had discussed with some of his friends how he was capable of disrupting serves. They had laughed about it together. It was clear that Bob was intentionally disrupting Steve’s teams serves…including Steve’s serve.

I am Bob. I did this. I was convicted of my deception and I will apologize to Steve if I see him again.

However, God convicted me that this is a trend in my life…and not only my life, but a common trend overall. We are confronted by guilt over sin, either intentional or unintentional. To sate our consciences as well as to puff up our ego as “good” Christian people, we decide to apologize to the one(s) affected by our sin.

However as a way to not feel as bad about ourselves we twist the circumstances a bit through deception. Instead of intentionally doing something, we instead deceive the other person and tell them that it was incidental. Instead of stating our actions and motives plainly, we coat them in sugary words designed to put us on a pedestal regardless of the issue for which we are apologizing.

Basically we try to get the best of both worlds. We try to do the holy act of apologizing for our wrongdoing as we know we ought, while actually apologizing for something barely bad and in our minds not really sinful. This is incredibly insidious and devastatingly dangerous. And it is a subset of small lies.

Lies that are so small that we hardly consider them. We lie in small ways to make our actions sound drastically better. It was a small change for me to lie to him and apologize for the outcome of my actions rather than my intent…but it made me sound much better. Instead of being a poor sportsman…I was simply slightly ignorant as to the outcome of my actions.

This is me allowing my pride to dictate my morals as I allowed myself to lie to seem better than I was.

In my life this habit has become so ingrained into me as to be second nature. It is generally after I say such things that I catch myself and correct myself. As such, I highly recommend that y’all also examine yourselves closely to check your motivations, while also being dependent on God for Him to examine you as well.

Rely on Him to excise the sin from your life. Be dependent on Him to bring these seemingly minor sins that make major differences to your mind as you pray.

Rights!

Surely we all have heard it and said it at various instances.

“I have a right to…”

“It’s my right!”

Or at other instances those declarations are implicit rather than explicit. When I become irritated at being interrupted, that irritation exists because I feel it is my right to be able to say my piece. When I start having a heated argument with some of my closest friends, it is clear that I am exercising my right to be right and my right to be heard. When someone makes a small mistake in something they say or do and I correct them even though it was unnecessary I am exercising my right to perfection.

When I exclaim to my friend about how slow he is being, I am exercising my right to everyone functioning on my timetable. When someone screws up at something and I treat them harshly because of it I am exercising my right to correctness. When I one-up someone’s achievements I exercise my right to superiority. When I look out for myself and my interests I exercise the right to self-preservation. When I respond in anger to an insult I exercise the right to honor. When I hold the sin of someone against them I exercise my right to remember.

When I kill someone in self-defense I exercise the right to live.

I thank God daily that He does not exercise His rights. If He did there would be no salvation for any of us. If Christ exercised His right to utter superiority, He never would have condescended to us by becoming one of us. If Christ exercised His right to correctness, all of us would be judged harshly. If Christ had exercised His right to live, there would be no way for our salvation.

Rather, Christ exercised His grace in love. Grace means giving up your rights for the sake of another. As Christians we are called by Christ’s example which we profess to follow to lay ourselves down through the rejection of our rights in order to more perfectly become the servants of those around us. Rights are about the consideration of self, grace is the consideration of others. Because of this it is our holy mandate and privilege to lay down that which we by rights are owed and instead place the rights of others before ourselves. Because we love we give grace. Because we give grace we do not require our rights to be observed by others.

Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This is obviously only possible through dependence on God’s provision and providence, not only to enable us to behave this way but also to sustain us if we do not look out for our own interests. Regardless brothers and sisters, I exhort you to remain dependent on God in this fashion. Please lay down your rights and encourage me to lay down mine so that we may follow in the example that has been set before us as the race to run.

Fighting the cookie cutter: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.”

It is a popular phrase. We hear it often when the discussion of sharing the gospel comes up. You have those who think the traditional presentation of the gospel is a dead method for our world today. Talking about eternity, sin, and hell scares people off more than it helps them. This phrase gets thrown around too often. “Preach the gospel always; when necessary use words.” Where did this quote come from? Is it accurate? Is it biblical?

The man credited with this statement is Francis of Assisi. He was a monk who lived in the 12th century, and was actually a really neat guy. This quote is said to have been said by him. There is a problem though. He never said these words, or even lived them out.

He said other things that could have been combined to get an implication of this quote, but he never said these exact words. He did talk about preaching through deeds, but there was never any real mention of only using words when necessary. There was no indication of the finality that this quote represents. In fact, this quote never even cropped up until 200 years after his death. As time passed people reworked these saying to come up with this thought provoking quote, and spoke of how Francis lived out this amazing life where he never spoke of the gospel, but instead allowed his action to do the talking.

It’s not true. His biographers talked about how you could not get Francis to shut up about the gospel. He would have people on the edge of their seats when he would speak on the crucifixion. He spoke about the gospel often… and he backed it up with his actions.

There has been a push back on this phrase by some. There are uber traditionalists out there who become threatened by this new view of sharing the gospel, and so they attack this quote and proceed to give a new concept. They say that we should preach the gospel always; when necessary use actions. This idea is hollow though.

Before going on to Scripture I want to address a problem since this is the first post in this category of “fighting the cookie cutter”. Christianity is plagued with the problem of cookie cutter statements. No matter what side of an issue you are on, chances are your side has a problem with this. We put more faith in an ancient quote and our own opinions than we do Scripture.

Scripture speaks down on both of these quotes. The deeds side has a hard time making their case when confronted with Scripture. A common verse thrown out is Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Paul specifically uses the word “hear”. This implies there must be words to hear. Paul wrote about this to explain his passion for going out to the world to preach the gospel.

Peter believed in preaching the gospel. He says in Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is after he pointed out to the crowd their sin and rejection of Christ by crucifying him. Peter had no problem pointing out the sin in the crowd. Many people have turned away from this need to speak the gospel because many believers have taken it too far. They have added offense to the gospel where it is not needed. If you are one of those people then let me say I am sorry for the experience you saw of others damaging the gospel that way. However, that gives us no excuse to turn to the other extreme.

Because while the gospel requires explaining the problem and the consequences, it does this so that the good news can be seen for what it is. When we present the gospel we should make sure the solution is magnified in all of its glory rather than the problem. Jesus sacrifice and resurrection should always be escalated over the consequence of sin. God’s goodness should always been presented as greater than man’s total depravity. It is not that we ignore man’s total depravity, but we use it to make way for the glorious nature of the good news.

That is what God did in the garden. When Adam and Eve messed up and sinned He talked about the consequences of that sin. He did not shy away from telling them how much trouble they were in. God does not hold back the punches in sharing the trouble humanity is in, but thankfully He did not end there. He went on to say He had a plan. “Don’t worry. I’m going to fix this.” When we share the gospel with words we must always remember that God was saying, “Not only do I have the power to fix this, but I am going to do it.”

We should never discount the need for our actions to present the gospel. Scripture says the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another. The Christian life is real living. Our actions must always back up our words. People need to see the joy we have in Christ if they are to believe the joy we have in Christ. It should be noted though that our actions of generosity in Scripture always seemed to first be geared towards others in the church that are in need. I do not want to focus on this part, but this is something we should find worth noting. I say this because I have seen many get so concerned about meeting the physical needs of the lost when they have a single mother in the church who is struggling to pay bills and feed her children, but don’t seem to do anything about it.

What should we say then? I have a different statement that I have strived to live by, “Speak and live the gospel always”. We must live out the gospel in a way that impacts others, but eventually we must follow that up with words. If you give water to a man who is in need of medication or he will die and is also thirsty, but do not give him any medication then what help are you really giving him? The gospel is more than just feeding the hungry. It is more than giving some money to the poor. It is bigger than any physical or emotional need. It is good news. It is news that needs to be spoken. It isn’t just some water from a well. It is true living water.