Observation: We are afraid of confrontation. Dairmaid MacCullough, in his book All Things made New states, “Calvin's theology, like that of Augustine's thrived on conflict.” “Where the Lord walks, storms arise” (Nahum 1:3b GNT).
“But mommy, the emperor has no clothes on!” Do you remember this innocent line from your childhood story? Parents had promised their child that the emperor would parade before the villagers dressed in the finery of his new wardrobe. They dutifully lined the streets, agreeably oohing and ahhing and cheering. This mandated political correctness was safe until the child's innocent observation confronted them. How could anyone propose that nakedness was clothing and others let themselves be duped into agreeing? This child's truth was not shouted down or maligned, as voices are today, who dare challenge mandated political correctness. It's no longer just a childhood story, is it?
The teachings of those who mandate gay “marriage” and ordination in the church and the endless chaotic train of self-proclaimed sexual identities are not clothed with Scripture. Who will speak this truth to the crowd who ooh and ahh and cheer while lining the pews of our churches? If there is no biblical warrant for something, how can it be promoted in the church? How? The answer is that “selfism” has crept in from the secular culture and is the new emperor. It has its own “truth” and wants to trump biblical truth. Theologian Michael Horton refers to this invasive and deadly shift as “the subjective experience of the self over God's objective Word and work.” (Christless Christianity, p. 176). Psychologist Larry Crabb also affirms our current narcissism: “Almost always, political correctness mandates that gender identity be wrapped up in freedom, not a God-empowered liberty to reveal Him, but a self-interested personal entitlement to make much of ourselves” (Fully Alive, p. 32). The proponents of these secular ideologies are not wearing the clothes of those who belong to God's kingdom.
If these words seem confrontational and out of place in the church, consider Matthew 23, where seven times in Jesus' frequent confrontations with the Pharisees over their neglect of the right use of Scripture, He warns, “How terrible for you teachers of the law and Pharisees!” And the apostle Paul's demeanour, before his conversion and afterwards, was, out of a godly jealousy, one of loving confrontation. But then, the whole biblical story is actually one of conflict and loving confrontation, from God's first question to Adam and Eve in their naked shame, God confronting Israel about their faithlessness through the prophets, God confronting death through the cross, all the way to the end of the story, confronting Satan and casting him down. Indeed, “The gospel writers all remind us that Jesus' kingdom work generated angry opposition from both human and nonhuman sources” (NT Wright, How God Became King, p. 226). The church itself was born into conflict as Christ's message for three centuries confronted the nakedness of the Roman Empire's gods. Conflict and loving confrontation are inevitable where Christ is truly and fully proclaimed, and “storms arise” as life-giving biblical truth exposes the empty nakedness of the ideologies of the world.
The nakedness of our western culture is becoming increasingly evident, and, like the crowds lining the streets in our story, many of our churches avoid loving conflict and no longer point out that nakedness. However, Timothy Keller rightly points out the cause of this nakedness: “Our western secular culture is perhaps the first society that operates without any answers to the big questions. If there is no God, we are here by accident” (Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, p.299). By disposing of the inconvenient truth that there is a God, we have cut ourselves off from our natural roots. The ideology of Darwinism is at the root of our nakedness, stripping us of our humanity. Thus, we have no answers to life's deep questions nor any ability to say what is good, let alone better, or best. The fruit of all this is evident in society's overflowing cornucopia of despairing and broken people with no hope and no one to tell them that things can be better. However, the good news is that God does exist and has revealed in Scripture what is better for us.
Many people mistakenly think that our faith is about being “nice”, but the Church also needs men and women willing to lovingly confront any teaching devoid of Scriptural warrant. For “If we allow false narratives to go unchallenged, we are contributing to the advancement of a kingdom which is not Christ's.” (Carmen LaBerge, Speak the Truth, p.10). And the best way to confront is to hold out the truth about Christ whose Word is life for us, for as Neil Anderson wrote, “We are not called to dispel the darkness but to turn on the light” (Restored, p. 52).
And so, let us not be afraid to speak up in loving confrontation, as Paul exhorts us: “We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4b-5 GNT). And our Lord Himself assures us, “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15 NIV).