Anyone who knows me well would attest to the fact that Im pretty outspoken. I sometimes surprise myself when I speak publicly on certain topics, because I tend to be a private and even shy person. Get me worked up on a matter or ask me my opinion, and Ill lay it all out in a flash.
Because I communicate for a living, I know that there is a fine art between saying something in a way in which it is memorable or in a way in which it is outrageous. In a world that has an ever-shortening attention span and which reports news and positions in sound-bytes and one-liners, professional communicators have to find a way to get their points across quickly, succinctly and in a way which will catch peoples attention.
Sometimes, however, it is possible for us to stray into verbal overkill or worse yet, become messengers whose demeanor and spirit are inconsistent with the testimony of a wholly-devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is simply thoughtlessness and other times it is ignorance, but in the end, we do more damage than good.
Scripture reminds us to be careful so that we do not abuse the truth with our actions or attitudes. Specifically, Paul instructs us to let not your good be evil spoken of in his letter to the Romans.
Recently, there have been headlines in news reports about two North Carolina Churchs whose pastors might have had good motives, but ended up letting their good be evil spoken of. In Waynesville, NC, one pastor was accused of taking politics too far from the pulpit by drawing stark lines against certain political parties and for certain political candidates. According to some press reports (and keep in mind, they arent always accurate), he wanted to make party affiliation and political candidate support a test of fellowship within his church. Controversy lead to division and division lead to his resignation.
In another incident, a church in Rutherford County put a message on its marquis that said, The Koran needs to be flushed. It eventually drew world-wide press attention and was removed, but not before it was roundly and rightfully condemned.
Lest you think Im some sort of pacifist milquetoast moderate, let me say that Im so conservative Ill only eat the right wing of a chicken. I believe the Word of God is found in the Holy Bible alone and that Islam is a false religion and the Koran nothing more than a flawed piece of literature. However, when we choose to use unbiblical, unethical, inappropriate or inflammatory methods and rhetoric to get our point across, very often we do more damage than good. We can be plain-spoken without being obnoxious.
Very few people in my church have any questions about where I stand politically on most issues. While Im not a loyal party man, my faith-based worldview definitely impacts my politics. But Im first and foremost an ambassador of the Gospel of Christ and that fact must not be lost in my rhetoric. Besides, why would I want to run people off that dont see things the same way that I do? Then Ill lose my opportunity to try and persuade them. It doesnt make sense!
Of course, there is no book like the Bible and Bible-believing Christians reject the authority of the Koran. But can we not communicate the difference and educate the misinformed without showing antagonism in the process? Does not the Golden Rule come into play at some level here? Does not Scripture speak the truth in love? Have we bought into the mentality that if were not strident, were compromisers? Are words like flush and moral sewer and degenerates necessary in order to get our points across?
I wont pretend to have a perfect track-record when it comes to verbal moderation. Thats why most of us require some accountability in our lives for the words we speak and the actions we take. I appreciate it when someone helps me understand when and why Ive gone over-the-top in a speech or column or even a sermon. Leaders at every level should give thought to avoiding letting our actions and words become good for nothing because we lob verbal bombs in place of presenting thoughtful arguments. In my humble opinion, there may indeed be a correlation between arrogance or ignorance and the use of excessive rhetoric. The motivations and ends simply do not justify the means when our words communicate something less than the spirit of Christ in the ears of listeners.