Article of the Month

January 2013

 

—  SMOOTH WORDS  —

 

“Now, go; write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord — which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.”


The words above are from Isaiah 30. They are an indictment against the attitudes of Israel in Old Testament times. The context shows that its initial application was due to Israel’s preferring to seek help from Egypt rather than from God; and they were irritated when God’s prophets chastised them for their errors. They preferred pleasantries — lies, rather than plainly corrective instructions.  “Speak unto us smooth things!”


The antitypical (or Christian Age) application of these words applies to Christendom. Egypt is typical of the wisdom of the world.  Hence, Christianity of our day, just like Israel of old, is not pleased with criticism from the words of the Lord. They, on the whole, would prefer the “smooth words” of political correctness, social niceties, and the prevailing philosophical behavioral standards of the world; and they hold a general disgust with anyone who dares to make them feel the least bit uncomfortable — to the point of labeling them troublemakers and dangerous to society. It is quite likely that this intolerance for criticism will increase as instability in the world increases. It will progress to the point where nearly any discussion of differences of understanding will be met with ostracism — and perhaps even punishment or violent resistance.

 

—  A CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE  —


There is no question that few seem able to separate the consideration of differing ideas from the disrespect of those who hold them. After recent destructive riots in Moslem countries due to someone’s having criticized Mohammed, a reporter summed up the matter roughly in these words:


Some people cannot handle criticism in a civilized manner. If I enter a bookstore, I can find innumerable books in it with ideas I despise; but it never occurs to me that I should burn down the bookstore!

 

The reporter had the matter right. The rioters have it all wrong — but telling them so only makes them riot more! Unfortunately the attitude of the rioters seems to be having a bit of a contagious effect even here in the Western “Christian” world.


There is something healthy about reasoned criticism. Deafness to it is a serious social and religious sickness. Unfortunately, we cannot correct the problem. Now we can only be good examples against its malignant influence. The Kingdom will correct the problem. In being good examples, however, we must be ready to reap the hatred of those who think such tolerance to be a social ill. After all, if Jewish tradition (probably referenced in Hebrews 11:37) be correct, Isaiah was eventually sawn in half because of his faithful and persistent rational reasoning!


A Christian feels an uncompromising duty to seek in the Scriptures the wisdom of God. His conscience cannot deviate from this source. His love of righteousness and hatred of wrong forces him to want to discuss these things with others who claim to be also thus committed. (Hebrews 1:9) But his inner ear remembers the words of Jesus (Matthew 7:1-5) which compel him to allow others to hold their convictions. What is the balance?


The balance is difficult. We must TRAIN our Christian minds to find it. We are free and compelled to think the way God thinks.  We are not free nor commissioned to try to make others think as we do. We are not free to hate THEM because we hate what they believe! We are free and compelled, however, to give ideas to those who think differently in hope that such free exchanges of ideas will knock off the rough edges of our understanding as well as help others in the same way. We must approach others with love for them — even though we have no love for their ideas. We are to be truth speakers, not hate mongers. We want to seek clear doctrine and hold it without any judgment or even dislike for those who cannot receive it. We want good criticism for our own viewpoints as much as we want to offer good criticism to those who seem to distort logic, reason, and Scripture. We would like to have an affectionate warmth for all men everywhere — although it becomes difficult when they want to behead us for our differences!


Thus, we do not want to “speak smooth things.” But we do want to speak truths smoothly. But truths by nature are irritating. If they are not appreciated, continuing to force them on the same unwilling recipients is, as Jesus said, like offering pearls to swine which, being irritated due to lack of appreciation for pearls, will only be able to offer brutish attacks.


Christians in this age are, indeed, prophets — foretellers of good things to come, and “seers” of what has been corrupted in Christian doctrine. We will speak. But we will speak in love —though the speech may be received otherwise.

                         

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