Friday, March 03, 2006

How Incurable God-Lovers Should Discuss Theology, Part 3 By Steve Lehrer

Honoring God With Our Intentions
The way we speak to one another is as important as the truth of our theological point of view. We have already established that Christ has commanded us to love one another. We are not only to love fellow believers, but our enemies as well. We have also established that in order to live out the command to love one another, we need to strive to understand the point of view of the person with whom we are discussing theology. Understanding usually involves listening and a bit of speaking in order to clarify what is being said. Now we need to consider those situations when we have to open our big mouths to present our point of view, to point out errors, and to defend what we believe the Scriptures teach.
Are we going to choose “adjectives” to the glory of God, or are we going to allow our tongues to wreak havoc and dishonor God? That is the simple choice we need to make. Are we going to put our love for God, our love for our brothers, and even our love for our enemies as our first priority, or are we going to choose to live for ourselves by feeding our pride and dishonoring our Lord? The book of Proverbs and the book of James are full of admonitions to be very careful about how we speak to others. Jesus says that the words that we speak reveal what is in our hearts. The things that we say reveal who our Lord really is:
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).

Most of us who engage in theological discussion know this, but sadly I see this truth applied far too infrequently. It wasn’t that we intended to be prideful or hurtful, we just wanted to win the argument. Of course, we don’t want to admit that winning the argument was our motive. We might refer to our prideful and arrogant way of interacting as, “defending the truth.” But notice that even this stated intention in discussing theology doesn’t mention that we should love whom we speak to and help him to understand God better. Our intention wasn’t to lay down our lives for our enemies, taking insults quietly and humbly attempting to show a more excellent way to think about the God of heaven and earth. It is a wonderful thing to “defend the truth” of the specific doctrine you are discussing, just so long as you remember that you simultaneously have to obey the other truths of Scripture like loving your brothers and loving your enemies, just as God has loved you. Without love and concern for the person you are talking to being a primary intention, there is no way you will consistently choose “adjectives” to the glory of God.

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