We can get so worked up whenever someone criticizes God or Christians. We want to run to God’s defense—or honestly, much of the time, our own—and say just the right thing that will shut that other person up (in love, of course). But God can defend himself far better than we can. We are called to stand and deliver, then take what comes—just as Jesus did.
Let’s consider that for a few more moments. Take off the table the idea that Jesus was the Son of God—that Jesus is God. Look, for a few moments, purely at the human Jesus of the Gospels. Look at how much he loved God, and how he presented the kingdom of God and defended it—including, very often, from those who claimed to speak for God and clearly did not. Here was someone who actually knew the right answers. How do you think Jesus felt during when he was assaulted verbally—and later physically—by those who didn’t want to hear those answers?
But how did he respond? Certainly there are examples of anger—pretty much reserved for those who insisted they could represent God better than Jesus could—but there was also patience. Love. A desire that the people he responded to somehow did hear it. If that’s the model of a Christian response, who are we—a hopeless jumble of spirit and flesh being perpetually sorted out through this process called sanctification—to respond any more pridefully?
Jesus is clear about our response: “[D]o not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). Somehow, we are to seek the best for the other person, even when the feeling isn’t mutual. Only by remaining under the guidance of the Spirit do we have any hope of responding correctly.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:1–6)
Those who live according to the flesh stand before us. In fact, some of them may be Christians. And lest we forget, they have been us—maybe more recently than we’d like to admit. By remaining in the Spirit, we’re carried from condemnation and suffering to life and peace, and it is only by God’s grace that we can maintain that peace he’s given us. So lay down in that peace, and let the Spirit do his work through you—and despite you.
Lay It Down Today
Today, you get to practice your silence in public. Don’t be rude, mind you, but commit to keeping your verbal responses—either spoken or typed—to a minimum. Commit to not defending yourself, explaining yourself (except when asked), “expressing your concern,” or pointing out what a good thing you’ve just done.
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil…. Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:37, 6:1)
Then, watch what the Spirit does that you couldn’t. And rejoice in it.