When I hung out at that Facebook page intended to bring Christians and atheists into dialogue, it soon became apparent that some people were primarily there to scoff at anything related to God. I had a similar experience recently at an atheist blog.
For the most part, the host was respectful, but a few commenters were doing their best, it seemed, to set “the Christian” up to get off topic and say something stupid. Hence, Christians were lumped in with Muslims and God was likened to Donald Trump. Of course there was the usual accusation that God was genocidal, but the capper was the “ex-Christian,” who apparently had once been a pastor, making the generalization that Christians don’t know as much or study as much of the Bible as he, and if we only would, we’d come away with the same doubts and denials that he did.
All this makes me very sad.
First, I hate to read accusations against God that aren’t true. Of course, any accusation against God isn’t true because God is holy and blameless and righteous and just and good. There simply are no grounds for accusing God of anything.
In reality, Satan has to be behind accusations against God since he is a liar and the father of lies. Hard to believe that Job, in the midst of his suffering, joined in with the accuser to say that God was wronging him.
It’s a bit shocking to read Job saying things that remind me of some of those emerging church folk from a few years back—the ones who claimed they were nicer than God. Job was saying he was more righteous than God.
[God said to Job,] “Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? (Job 40:8)
Which brings me to the next thing that makes me sad. Thankfully, when Job came face to face with God, he repented. The three friends he’d been arguing with, didn’t. In God’s mercy, He told one of the men to make sacrifices for themselves and have Job pray for them. They did, and God accepted Job.
I guess their offering sacrifices indicates they repented in the end. But the sad and sorry truth is, many, many, many scoffers don’t.
Psalm 1 starts out by saying,
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! (v 1)
The point of this psalm seems to be that it’s better not to hang with people who can be categorized as wicked, sinners, scoffers.
Christian parents often embrace this concept for their children. It’s better to pick your friends wisely, to steer clear of troublemakers and kids who knowingly and purposefully do what is not right.
Yet the current church trend is to paint Jesus as the guy who hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors—the dregs of the first century Jewish society. Well, the truth was, Jesus didn’t hang with them. They hung with Jesus. But the point these church leaders are making is that Christians need to break out of isolation mode so we can actually relate to people who need Jesus Christ.
But the two positions—picking good friends and hanging with people who need Jesus—raises a good question: how do non-Christians in our society ever hear the gospel? Porn stars or gang bangers or drug dealers or prostitutes or murderers are not likely to go to church, and church isn’t designed to evangelize.
So how do they hear the gospel?
Are we to refrain from walking in the counsel of the wicked, standing in the path of sinners, and sitting in the seat of scoffers, or not? And if we do, how do we fulfill the great commission?
There has to be a balance, I think, and it may be present in some of the word choices of Psalm 1:1. The righteous man, as he is identified as in verse 6, is firmly planted, not driven by the wind. At the same time it’s the counsel of the wicked he avoids, the path of sinners he won’t stand in, the comfortable intimacy with scoffers he disdains.
In other words, it’s not the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers he is to avoid, but their counsel, their path, their companionship.
The Internet is an interesting place. I’ve read some articles—or skimmed them—written by scoffers, even some well-known scoffers. Each time, I’m left with this same sadness. I see how horrendous their words are, but I also see how much at risk they’re putting their eternal destiny.
Honestly? I’d like to reach out and shake them: What are you saying? How blind are you? It’s hard to watch them spit on the One I love—for His sake and for theirs.