Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mercy for the Doubting

Over at Storied Theology this week, J.R. Daniel Kirk commented on (black) and quoted an excerpt from Christianity Today (in red):
"Drew Dyck’s “The Leavers” strives to give a balanced assessment of both the reality of young people leaving the church and the prognosis for their return. There are several sociological factors that make a return with the advent of marriage and children less likely than it was in earlier generations.
But the point that interested me most was when he probed the reasons given for folks leaving.
Almost to a person, the leavers with whom I spoke recalled that, before leaving the faith, they were regularly shut down when they expressed doubts. Some were ridiculed in front of peers for asking “insolent questions.” Others reported receiving trite answers to vexing questions and being scolded for not accepting them."

Today, as I prep for Sunday School, I ran into these verses:
Jude:

17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 
Jude is all about watching out for false teachers and contending for the faith that God has given to the saints. So there will be mockers and ungodly who creep into the church and they are to be resisted and corrected with correct teaching.

But then there are others who are doubting and you have to help them and be merciful to them. You have to build them up and show them Christ's love.

For the contentious unbeliever in the church you don't cast your pearls before swine. But for the ailing lamb that wrestles with doubt: you must be gracious and merciful and nurse them to health. You must be like a nurse aiding in childbirth rather than the CDC irradiating a contaminant.

The problem is too many Christian never use Biblical wisdom to discern between a wolf and a baby lamb. We end up shooting the sheep thinking that we are contending for the faith rather than seeing that contending for the faith entails being merciful with those who doubt. This means we address the issue but with gentleness, compassion, and empathy, sympathizing with their weakness in faith just as Christ sympathizes with ours. We do not put on a stiff upper lip of authoritarianism that spouts route answers. By the same token when the Bible and the faith provides assurance, answers and hope we must give the reasons for our hope.

The bottom line: yes there are mockers but all doubters are not mockers. We do a disservice to Christ when we treat a doubter like a mocker (and vice versa). Far too many Christians have driven others away from the faith because they could not be merciful to one wrestling with doubts. They rebuked when the should have nursed mercy.

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