Monday, October 22, 2007

When to "Take a Stand"

Someone mentioned to me the other day that some people around town think Cedarbrook is "soft", meaning we don't confront people about lifestyle issues. I purposefully don't try to defend comments like these in my preaching but addressing the "soft" comment fit perfectly with my sermon on The Great Banquet on Sunday. It gave me the opportunity to explain that there is both method and theology behind my reticence to "take a stand" and condemn lifestyle issues publicly. Give it a read/listen to see if you agree.

There was a day when I would jump at the chance to "take a stand" for "righteousness". It felt so good to point out how others were doing it wrong (implying that I was doing it right). It compelled people to pat me on the back and thank me for "preaching the truth". And it drew a clear line in the sand, defining what a follower of Jesus truly looks like (and I love clarity vs. fuzziness). Plus it made me feel like "God's man" know, being willing to step up and say the unpopular thing - kind of a spiritually macho thing to do.

But over the years I feel like God has exposed some of the self serving attitudes in "taking a stand". Truthfully, I don't know what good it does. I'm not saying that there is never a place for it. There is. But often not the place where we think it is. Too often it only serves to puff up our pride and turn the target of our "stand" off. We only polarize ourselves more. How is that helpful in reaching the unchurched?

Sometimes the hardest thing (certainly for me), and the most righteous thing is to just keep our mouths shut. Now if your character flaw is that you are too wishy-washy, God might be speaking the exact opposite to you. You need to stand up for what you believe. But that's not my problem.

As for being soft, it's a compliment to me because twenty years ago (uh, and more recently than that!) I was accused of being harsh. I guess I've come a long way. I'm just thankful that Jesus' Spirit is the One who brings true conviction to our hearts and not self-righteous preachers.

The next three Sundays I'll be adding to what I said so I hope you'll join me in person or on-line.


Angie said...

For the first time in church I finally heard the true meaning of communion. Your message truly revealed the heart of God. In the midst of the many clanging cymbols in the world it was very encouraging to hear a voice in- accord with Gods purpose.
God comforted me through your words in many ways.

walkinginfreedom said...

For about 4 or 5 years we went to a church where the pastor took a stand on everything and wouldn't hesitate to come down on you. The Sunday sermon messages usually ended with "if you think you're not saved, you might not be." Or, "unless you are doing what I think you should, you are a pewsitter." The atmosphere was condemning and discouraging. People in the church regularly "reported" each other to the pastor if they expressed an opinion contrary to the pastor. When we first attended Cedarbrook about a year ago, I have to admit we were so used to the "hard" atmosphere at the other church we were just a tiny bit concerned about how would people know when they were doing something wrong without being told by the pastor. Interestingly enough, this past year we have grown so much in our walk with the Lord. There are many times during this past year where we been convicted by Him (not a person)of areas or things we need to grow in. Amazing! When the Lord convicts/teaches you through his Spirit it is so different than when a "person" tries to do it. It is actually encouraging, humbling, makes you grateful and you desire to do what He wants. We are so thankful and blessed for how He has worked through Remy and those in leadership at Cedarbrook. In Richard Foster's book "Celebration of Discipline", chapter 1, p. 10, he says "When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God's work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight." Amen!

Geneva Koleski said...

I don't see this as being soft, I see it as leading. It seems to me that Jesus said to love your neighbor. He didn't say love the neighbor that was just like you, or believes the same things as you, or looks just like you. He also said love your enemies. He didn't say condemn or judge your enemies. I've found that God deals with issues in his own time and it's going to be different for each person. I belive it's easier for people to be open when that time comes if from an open positive place rather than a harsh unpleasent one. God has said plenty to me through you, Remy.

Remy Diederich said...

Geneva, you make a good point that is reflected in the Prodigal story. The father didn't fight the son who wanted to take his inheritance and leave. He could have. But by not "taking a stand" he left the door open for his son's return. The son knew that the father had not burned the bridge home. The father may have lost some honor in the eyes of the village people, but it was worth it to him.

angie said...

If you think about it God told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use us. We are called to be like God, He would'nt call us to do what He himself would not do. Therefore it is God himself who loves his enemies... It is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.