I am a voracious reader.
I love reading, always have.
And my taste in books is rather eclectic. I tend to lean toward fiction, for I do indeed love a good story, but non-fiction has its appeal, too. Almost entirely, the non-fiction books that I read are written by Christian authors.
As for fiction? I'm all over the place!
First of all, might I just say that I am quite pleased to see that the world of fiction now contains some wonderful Christian books. Just as the world of Christian music has become more "legit" in recent years – the world of Christian literature is becoming more professional, more marketable. With better writing, and better exposure, the world of Christian fiction is exploding.
No longer do we have to be "embarrassed" by faulty fiction with poor plot, shallow characterization, or stilted dialogue. Good books are being written – books that just happen to be written by Christian authors.
Having said that, I am also a great reader of secular fiction. I am quite fond of mysteries, having earned my *reading stripes* on Nancy Drew. And I also enjoy fantasy and science fiction. I find that I tend to go on "reading jags" – becoming enraptured with one genre, and reading only that for several books in a row.
Lately, I've gotten rather immersed in historical detective novels. Novels that have a wonderful plot, great characters, and a smattering of true historical facts and settings. I've learned a lot about other centuries in other countries. I've discovered a lot about early medical practices and forensics. And let me tell you, I'm glad I live in the 21st century!!
But, once in a while, I find that my two worlds clash. My *Christian* comes against the worldview.
This happened just the other day.
I'm currently in the middle of a great series. The characters are truly captivating. The settings are breathtaking. And the mysteries are multi-layered and intriguing. So, I'm hooked on finishing this series, and then eagerly awaiting the next installment.
But, as I was reading the introduction of the next book (for me) in the series, which is set in Jerusalem, I was taken aback by something I read. The sentence started out, "In the first century of the Common Era…" OK, I'm immediately perturbed at the use of this term. I think it's a way to get rid of the traditional A.D. – which stands for "Anno Domini" – and means "in the year of our Lord." It serves as the other side of B.C. – which stands for "before Christ."
So, I'm upset that this author is removing herself from any reference that uses Jesus as a benchmark.
Then, she refers to Him like this: "…a troublesome rabbi and carpenter from Nazareth…"
This is where my spiritual shackles rose!
How dare she dismiss our Lord?!
That entire day, I felt upset. And I've been thinking about my thoughts and feelings ever since.
Why did I react like this?
And why so quickly?
For yes, my reaction was visceral, without rational thought, instinctual, and even protective.
I felt the same way I used to when someone would make fun of one of my sons, or try to bully them. The *mother eagle* in me would swoop in with flaming eyes of vengeance and protection.
"Don't you dare go after one of my boys!!"
And, this is how I felt after reading these words.
"How dare you go after my Lord?!"
I felt righteously indignant.
So, curious, I looked up that term:
"Righteous indignation is typically a reactive emotion of anger over perceived mistreatment, insult, or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice…a feeling involving anger mingled with contempt or disgust."
Yup, that's what it felt like.
But, on pondering this whole incident, and my ensuing reaction, I have three things I want to bring to the table today. Three lessons that I think the Lord wanted me to learn.
1) We should stand up for what we believe.
In other words, sometimes I think we're tempted to slough off things that people say or do. We're unwilling to take a stand, for we are afraid of offending them, or of being attacked ourselves. And so, thinking we're being spiritually meek and humble (at least that's the rationalization I use sometimes), we let things slide.
I've been party to conversations when people are bashing Christians and religion to my face. My old neighbor used to do this. And, I was silent. While on the inside, I kept thinking these two things:
"Does she not KNOW that I am a Christian, too?"
"And why am I not setting her straight about that?"
Yeah, sometimes I made a feeble attempt to justify the actions of people associated with the faith, but often it was a very tepid, milquetoast response on my part. And part of what made it hard to have a good response is that, quite frankly, sometimes Christians behave badly.
I have often said that Christians can "block the view." Sometimes it's really hard to see Jesus through our faults and sins. Sometimes we're obstacles and not reflections.
But there is another situation in which I find it hard to stand up for what I believe.
I also find myself getting upset, but staying silent, when this happens in conversations. The person says to me something along the lines:
"Oh, you're religious."
My hackles rise, but I either stay quiet, or I make some attempt to distinguish between a religion and a relationship.
Usually it falls on deaf ears. For most people will then look at me like I'm a nutcase, a fanatic who's having a "relationship" with an invisible being.
I am all too often a spiritual shrinking violet, slinking away from confrontation or possible offense – even though the Spirit within me has been hurt, demeaned, or dismissed.
I want to do better.
OK, the next thing that I think the Lord wanted me to learn is this:
2) We should feel compassion and pity for the unsaved.
My first reaction to this person was anger. Oh boy, I wanted to "get in her face." I wanted to point out how disillusioned she was, how woefully incorrect she was in her view of Jesus. I wanted to tell her off and set her straight.
And not in a kind way.
But, over the next few hours after reading this, the Lord began to change my heart. He began to reveal to me that this woman didn't deserve my anger and hatred – though her words might stir up ill feelings, her lost heart should move me to tears.
I felt convicted.
I got to thinking. Though we might be highly offended at the words and actions of the unsaved, what should move us most is sadness and pity at the lost state of their souls.
Jesus told us to love our enemies.
How can we do that?
Sometimes I think it means that we pray, fervently, for their salvation.
For after all, aren't we really offended in the first place because we are privileged to know the Savior?
And don't we want that for everyone?
It's what the Lord wants.
I am reminded of this verse:
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, NASB)
These people are not ignorant or stupid. We are not "better" than them. For truth be told, all of us are but creatures in desperate need of a Savior, whether we know Him or not.
Therefore, we should have the heart of God, who mourns over the lost, who does everything in His power to move them toward repentance. The One who died for them, and loves them.
So, we can feel angry, yes, but we should really feel sad, and we should pray.
And finally, the Lord had this to say:
3) We should rely on Him in these situations.
It should lead us to action, yes, but God-ordained action. After all, we are not perfect – (I'm not, are you??). And in our humanness, our indignation can become anger and we can say things we ought not.
Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between when I've been offended and feeling selfish anger, as opposed to a healthy indignation that comes from the Spirit. Sometimes I can end up defending myself and not the Lord. My heart is a deceptive thing.
Only Jesus knew indignation that was perfectly righteous.
He must lead us.
When to say something, and how to say it.
For His purpose in everything He did and said was to point to the Father.
And therefore, everything we do and say must also point to Him. To His grace, His mercy, and His salvation.
This world is going to be offensive at times – perhaps lately, most of the time. And we can be righteously angry and deeply offended.
How to react?
Stand up for what you believe, pray for the salvation of the lost, and rely on the Lord to do the speaking through you.
At the right time, in the right way, with the right words.
You're probably wondering, will I finish this book? Probably. For I do love the people, the story, and the series. But, I am adding this author to my prayer list.
Because, though she wrote so eloquently about Jerusalem, the beautiful and shining city on a hill…
…she totally missed the Main Character.
It is ALL about Jesus.
and The Life.
"Then the LORD asked Moses, 'Who makes a person's mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.'" (Exodus 4:11-12, NLT)
"'At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak...and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD.'" (Ezekiel 24:27, NIV)
"'...when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says!' Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse...'"
(Ezekiel 3:27, NLT)
"…do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12:11-12, ESV)
"...don't worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:19-20, NLT)
"...for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!" (Luke 21:15, NLT)
"...no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!...
If you are wise and understand God's ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom...the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness." (From James 3, NLT)
What gets your *spiritual hackles* up, and how do you handle it?
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