Agree With Your Adversary Quickly: Getting Along with Those Different From Us

I recently got Myspace message from a young man (does that sound condescending when he’s 21 and I’m only 28? With marriage and a child later, I certainly don’t think so) who saw my Myspace profile and decided that I was apostate. Sigh. It happens. But this guy (despite his frequent use of exclamation points) didn’t seem as angry as some people who have “confronted” me, so I decided to write him a lengthy reply. I’ve withheld his name (’cause posting that here would be tacky) but here is our conversation. [Regular readers please note: I am in many respects ‘speaking his language’–I don’t normally talk like this!]

Hi brother,

Thank you for taking the time to send me such a lengthy email. You are obviously concerned for me, and I appreciate that. I’m sorry that my life (or at least, the version of it represented on Myspace) seems to be vexing you so. Let’s see if we can take your message point by point. You are in italics. 

WHAT?!?! WHAT!?!?! How can have these things on your myspace?!?! How can you be listening to these horrible things?!?!?! Like System of a Down. I used to listen to that, but God lead me away from it. I now see that is an evil thing to listen and had a negative impact on my life. But how you still listen to it?!

System of a Down…they’re not believers–at least I don’t think–and yet I think many of the things they care about are the same things Jesus cares about. War. Genocide. Torture. Justice. These are things that stir the heart of God, and I hear compassion behind SOAD’s rough exterior. I’m not saying I endorse every aspect of their lives or music (it isn’t for me to condone or condemn anyway), but I do indeed hear God’s Kingdom behind much of it. If listening to them caused you to go to a bad place mentally/spiritually, then I praise Jesus that you were freed! Something that might be different between you and I is that I grew up Christian from an early age. By this I don’t mean religiosity, but that I had a real conversion experience when I was four years old. Thus I was raised in a fairly “safe” environment and probably began to encounter some aspects of our culture (like music with a backbeat) when you were giving it up! At this stage of your spiritual life you probably recall chapters and verses more thoroughly than me, so you’ll likely know where the letter is where Paul treats the delicate issue of whether or not church communities should eat meat sacrificed to idols–which some members of the redeemed community found to be jarring reminders of their life in idolatry. For others, it was simply…meat. Paul encouraged a spirit of mutual love, and for each to do according to their own conscience. I hope that you and I can support one another even if our lives and convictions take us down different paths of loving God and our neighbors.

I am shocked that you have such horrible things on your myspace yet still talk about follow Jesus and the Bible! I don’t understand one bit. According to Paul, I should not fellowship with someone who claims to be christian yet lives in sin. You cannot drink the cup of devils and of the Lord.

And if you choose not to have e-fellowship with me via this fine social networking medium, well, that’s your choice. But riddle me this: Suppose I was some notorious lost sinner, who only thought he has encountered the saving good news of God as found in Jesus Christ. What should you do with me then? Should you avoid fellowship with me, treating me as worse than an animal? You should know that the passage you quote is written to a group of Christians who live among one another and have close–possibly even daily–fellowship. And in this church community, Paul is addressing a situation where someone is behaving habitually hurtfully, to himself and others. So when he goes on to say “Turn this one over to satan,” he isn’t being vindictive but loving. He’s saying “Stop coddling this person. Turn them over to their own adversarial ways and hopefully this will snap them back to reality.” By contrast, your handling of this passage seems hurtful and exclusionary, not at all in the spirit of Jesus. In fact, if Jesus of Nazareth followed your interpretation of this passage, he would have never been able to hang out and eat with all the wrong people, would he? And if sex workers, terrorists, government stooges and foul working-class stiffs couldn’t be Jesus’ friends and followers, where would any of us be?

And your comments… I looked at some of their myspace’s too and they are the same. They talk about Jesus but the also have these horrible things but inches away. A half-naked lady on one comment. An almost naked man on another (on yours and others comment boxes). Cursing in the same paragraph as talking about the Lord Jesus- I find that appauling (sic)!

Hmm. I looked over my comments and saw no half-naked people of any kind. But even if I had, please see my point above. If Ron Jeremy wanted to be my Myspace friend, should I refuse him? And, incidentally, I find your comments about purity on Myspace just a tad amusing–I mean c’mon, bro, they have some pretty risque ads on here sometimes!

I would be ashamed of myself if I were you. Are you not ashamed of these things?

I’m not proud of every action in my life, no. But thank God for his mercy shown in the face of Jesus. Truly, I’m thankful, and this divine love sparks reciprocation in the choices I make.

Paul says that the end of those things is death. God will not be mocked, a man reaps what he sows, eternal life according to the Spirit, but death according to the flesh. Jesus came to set us free from these awful things- such as lust, coarse language, and wants to avoid ALL appearances of evil.

Oh right, I didn’t respond to the “cussing” critique. While I can’t be found to be using four-letter words very often, I have to be honest and tell you it doesn’t really bother me when others do. And here’s why.

Believers are to be his holy people. I think I read that you were part of the emergent church, is that right? I understand that they do not believe in the Bible being absolute truth(or at least doubt it). That is false. How do you know who God is if you doubt His communication to us through His Word. His Word is profitable to prove things rightly. Doubt leaves the door open to people interpreting the Bible the way they want. Do you know how to tell if something is a LIE??? In the Bible! If you have no standard, everything is shady, people can bend things to whatever they wants, and that leaves people open for attacks from the enemy and bondage.

I am involved in the emerging conversation, yes. And all I can say is that I love, appreciate, affirm and trust Scripture as inspired and life-giving. And reading many ’emerging’ authors and speakers has done much to fan the flames of my enthusiasm for honestly engaging the Bible, bringing my questions to it, and ultimately, letting Scripture read me. Feel free to peruse my emerging church links directory to see for yourself more of what various ’emergers’ (if there even is such a thing) actually think and practice.

The Lord Jesus himself stated that whoever sins is a servant of sin. Paul addressed the question, “should we sin, that grace may abound?” His answer was certainly NOT! Why would we want to get entangled again in the things we were freed from? Other translations say, “God forbid” or “may it never be.”

I agree. Amen, brother!

1 John says the whoever abides in God does not sin, neither can he sin, because God’s sin is in him(of course nobody is perfect, that’s why we are also admonished to confess or sins and He will be faithful and just to forgive). What he is saying is that it is hard to sin. John also says that whoever practices righteousness is God and whoever sins is of the devil. I know, you’re probably thinking (who is perfectly righteous?). That’s why God sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be set free from the bondage of sin and we would be declared righteous- but I think you already know that part. He came to set the captives FREE!

I appreciate your knowing nod to my anti-slavery work…yes indeed, I feel that Jesus came to set captives free, in every respect–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually–even ecologically. Further, I think he actually accomplished it, and we now live in a (re)new(ed) world without fear. Of course, people can still existentially feel themselves in bondage, and for this reason having an authentic encounter with our liberating God is as vital today as it was 2,000 years ago.

Grace and peace to you, brother. I sense a caring spirit beneath all the excitement. I have nothing against you, you should know–I hope we can talk again some time.

2 Responses to “Agree With Your Adversary Quickly: Getting Along with Those Different From Us”

  1. 1 Matt December 24, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Mike, great reply, thanks for sharing it.

    I feel bad for ‘pharisees’ like him, who really miss out on the love, mercy and grace of Christ.

    Have a Merry Christmas.

  2. 2 Miracle December 31, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    I have tagged you to post an Alternative New Year’s Resolution.

    Check out the details here

    An Alternative Resolution

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