The mission of Christ and the call of the Christian are directional. Paul got at this when he spoke of straining forward, pressing on (Phil. 3:13-14). The author of Hebrews got at this when he used the analogy of a race (Hebrew 12:2). Sabine Baring-Gould got at this when he wrote the words, “Onward, Christian soldiers.” John Bunyan got at this when he spun the tale of Christian and his journey.
Onward we must go! Onward for Christ!
But let’s consider for a moment: What are onward’s opposites? In addition to backward, in addition to stuck, there is the dangerous other one – sidetracked! Consider the warnings – consider how many verses speak of not turning to the right or to the left: Deut. 5:32, 17:11, 17:20, 28:14, Joshua 1:7, 23:6, Prov. 4:27, 2 Kings 22:2.
Now for some application: What is the buzz today on twitter? What are the hot topics?
There may be the occasional controversy that is over the essentials of the gospel and the worship of God. Most are not, though. Almost every controversy is a temptation to be sidetracked!
It’s not that believers are not allowed to have opinions in controversies. It’s not that followers of Christ are not to express those opinions. But we have to be careful that in the midst of having an opinion and expressing that opinion we do not find ourselves veering off of the simple, pure mission of Christ. Here are some helpful questions to ask ourselves in the midst of a controversy:
1. Is this eclipsing my passion for the mission of Christ?
Am I more into this controversy than I am into seeing people become disciples of Jesus and grow in their faith in him? Am I more invested in my opinion in this controversy than I am invested in helping people follow Jesus and in following him myself?
2. Is this controversy interfering with my prayers to God and fellowship with him?
Do I find myself worked up in the midst of this and yet struggling to pray to God about it? Do I find this to be an interruption in looking to Christ?
3. Is this eclipsing my communication of the message of the gospel?
What if we asked the people who know me? What would they say my primary message is during this season? What message do they hear me sending out the most? What is my life most about?
4. Is my heart becoming divided from my brothers?
Am I able to hold my opinion, and disagree with brothers who feel differently, and still remember that we are family in Christ? Am I able to love them every bit as much, encourage them, pray for them, even while having different opinions on these matters? Am I able to maintain a one-body thought of the church, or am I starting to think of my brothers in factions?
As Christ-followers, we are not restricted from forming opinions on all sorts of topics. We are not restricted from addressing all sorts of concerns. But if those opinions cause us to be side-tracked from the beautiful upward call of Christ Jesus, then it would be better if we did not form an opinion on the issue at all.
Here’s the encouragement: Our lives have been completely changed by Jesus in the tremendous salvation God gave us through Christ. He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son! (Col. 1:13) We have hope and a future of eternal glory! That is the story that we are all about.
In the midst of a land of controversy, let’s press onward with that good news call each and every day. Let our message be clear and our work steady. Straight ahead for Jesus!