There exists in Cyberland a set of open discussion forums oriented toward folks connected to the military services in which one can find a couple of forum areas bearing a Christian label. I have been frequenting one such forum for some time now, but alas, it might be time to move on down the road.
Why? I have consistently failed to be obedient to a couple of moderators I have sometimes affectionately called the Sheriff and the Deputy. Don’t worry; I didn’t shoot either of them. (If you get that, you are probably old like me.)
Permit me to explain. At this particular cyber-venue we find the following forum rules:
"In the interest of maintaining good order and mutually respectful discussion within the Christian Corner forum, the follow policies apply to messages posted here.
This is a CHRISTIAN forum. Topics discussed here will be from a Christian/Biblical perspective. As such, some opinions expressed here may be controversial. As a Christian forum the topic of sin will be discussed. The term "hate the sin, but love the sinner" will apply to these discussions. Therefore, personal attacks, insults, and profanity will not be tolerated."
The above certainly seems fair and reasonable, doesn’t it? I interpreted those rules as meaning that the Christian/biblical perspective regarding topics discussed would be presented, and that rude, ignorant, and disrespectful conversation would not be tolerated. In other words, I believed they meant what they said. Well, after a year or so of hanging out at this particular forum, I think I finally got it figured out.
It’s OK to talk about ‘sin’, but in a general sense only, as the reason Christ died, but don’t talk about what that means in terms of fallen humanity, specifically. By that I mean don’t talk about such things as ‘natural’ fallen human beings being by nature hostile to God and deserving of His just wrath – that sort of thing. It upsets the atheists and unbelievers who might show up whom we are supposed to be ‘wooing’ to Jesus.
Perhaps most grievously, I missed the ‘therefore’ in the part that said:
“’hate the sin, but love the sinner’ will apply to these discussions. Therefore, personal attacks, insults, and profanity will not be tolerated."
I thought that the ‘not to be tolerated’ behavior applied to everyone engaged in discussions. I have since learned, and been specifically told (IN the forum), that this rule doesn’t really apply to unbelievers and atheists. Not that I have seen any Christians acting that way, but there are a few regular professing atheists who routinely mock God and engage in personal attacks/insults. To their credit I have not observed open profanity. I guess requiring them to adhere to rules long considered as proper behavior for human dialogue of any sort would be ‘unloving’ to those whom we are supposed to be ‘wooing’ to Christ.
I suppose the biggest eye opener was being counseled IN the forum, by the Sheriff and the Deputy Sheriff, in front of the gleefully watching God-mocking pagans, concerning my ‘intentionally confrontational’ behavior, while nothing at all is said to those who openly mock God and His followers. I just couldn’t understand it, until I was publically counseled concerning my misinterpretation of the rules. I also might have ‘offended’ the Sheriff and Deputy by suggesting the rules should apply to everyone.
That left me with two choices. I either need to go find some sackcloth and ashes, or move on down the road. Well, since the biblical model for evangelism has at its core the nature of fallen human beings and the issue of sin, and nowhere do we have an example of ‘wooing’ the lost to Christ by just proving how nice we are and how inoffensive our ‘gospel’ is, it’s time to do a little ‘dust shakin’.
The gospel message that actually has the power to save is offensive to the unbeliever unless God has softened a hard heart and opened deaf ears to hear it. Our job as believers is to lovingly and prayerfully present an ‘offensive’ gospel and trust God to do as He said he would – save sinners. To do otherwise – to ‘woo’ the lost to Christ with niceness and promises of how Jesus will fix all their problems would place me in the ‘God-mocking’ camp, whether or not I ‘profess’ Christ.