Does God Need Our Defense?

Reconsidering the idea that God needs His people to protect His public rating.

Our culture is big on self-defense.

This year, more than six million American children will participate in martial arts—the art of self-defense. At the same time, American adults hotly debate the place that guns occupy in society, largely because of how people feel about their right to defend themselves.

American Christians, too, seem trained from birth to defend themselves, or rather, their faith. It is commonly believed that good Christians should have a firm grasp on their beliefs, and be able to articulate, nay, defend, their faith against inevitable attacks.

To further complicate matters, Christians today are barraged with statistics that paint a dismal future for American Christianity. The statisticians proclaim that an ever-shrinking minority of Christians actually possess a “biblical worldview,” that Christianity is under attack from all sides. It adds up to a frightening scenario that feels as if it is the last few remaining Christians against the world.

American Christians, too, seem trained from birth to defend themselves, or rather, their faith.

And yet, the more defensive Christians get and the louder the arguments become, the more often it all backfires, causing Christians to appear to be socially backwards, culturally inept or just outright hateful.

But what if the answer to Christianity’s problems lies not in increasing our defenses, but giving them up altogether? How do Christians turn from a constant posture of defensiveness to presenting God as He really is?

Here’s four reasons to lay down your defenses.

1) You are Christian first, American second

Today’s American culture seems hypersensitive to any perceived threat against our rights. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is held as sacred as Scripture itself.

Yet, Christians need to remember that they are Christians first and Americans second. The First Amendment is a freedom but not an obligation. Jesus, who we are claiming to defend, was ambivalent about His public approval rating. He often eschewed clear declarative statements about His beliefs by teaching in parables that required thought from His listeners. He demonstrated His greatest strength by offering no defense when His life depended on it.

So are we really being Christ-like in our rush to defend Christianity by declaring what God thinks about any number of thorny social issues? Are we imitating Christ by advertising who we think is going to hell? Are we turning any hearts with our “defense?” If not, then Christians need to lay down their right to publicly speak their minds. Our right to free speech is not in the Bible.

2) God can take care of Himself

Ancient people believed that their gods needed human support in the form of sacrifices–animal or even human—in order to live. God, however makes abundantly clear in the Bible that He is not like that. He does not need our sacrifices. He is self-sufficient.

But it seems that modern Christians often forget this, believing God needs us to speak for Him, to defend His honor, as if He cannot speak for Himself. Charles Spurgeon said it best: “The Gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended. It just needs to be let out of its cage.”

Turning from a defensive posture often requires rethinking our concept of God. Christians treat God more like a fragile, wounded kitten, needing to be nursed and guarded, far more often than they revere Him as a lion. But when we change our own perspective of God, we will also see that He didn’t need Israelite sacrifices. And He doesn’t need our defense today.

Jesus, who we are claiming to defend, was ambivalent about His public approval rating.

3) God speaks softly

When Elijah went to the mountaintop to search for God, a hurricane force wind came out to meet him. Following it, came an earthquake, and then a forest fire. But the story says simply: But God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire (1 Kings 19). He wasn’t in the natural disasters. Elijah had to listen intently because God came to him as a still, small voice.

So often, Christians want to demonstrate God with our version of those natural disasters. We want to shout loudly with irresistible, fiery force. We want Christians to declare to America what God thinks—with thunderclaps and lightening. We want Christians to speak out boldly and lobby the government for our agenda.

All that is accomplished with that approach is destruction. It’s a…well, disaster. The voice of the Holy Spirit is drowned out in the noise. It is when Christians demonstrate God in a still, small voice, in the context of love and friendship that God can actually speak to people.

4) Defending God is often really self-defense

Why do Christians get so defensive about God?

It is the same reason that people get defensive about consumer products. People actually become heated over what brand of computers, smartphones or video games they enjoy. They do this primarily because the products they use say something about them as consumers.

The reason many Christians defend their faith is the same. They are not defending God. They are defending themselves. It is their own honor at stake, their own pride and security, their reputation—not God’s.

And when our only motivation for defending God is a concern for ourselves, we end up looking ridiculous to outsiders.

What if Christians actually laid down their honor, their pride, their instincts to get defensive? What if we beat our swords into plowshares and answered every attack with love, with a still small voice that never wavered, but never raised?

It would mean that we are finally imitators of Jesus, and every last one of the accusations leveled against us—that we are hateful, hypocrites, selfish, narrow-minded and backward—would no longer be true.

7 Comments

Alan C. Duncan

2

Alan C. Duncan commented…

Thanks for your writing Matt. I really appreciate your heart for seeing Christian's communicating in love. I'd like to bring 1 Peter 3:14-16 to the conversation as well. I think it touches succinctly on the topic.

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."

The transliteration for the word "defense" in that passage is the Greek word "apología" which literally means "verbal defense, speech in defense" or "a reasoned statement or argument." In light of the above passage I do believe that "Christians should have a firm grasp on their beliefs, and be able to articulate" them in love. If such a thought is "commonly believed" it is because it is a clear biblical mandate.

I agree that God needs no defense, in that He is self-sufficient and needs nothing. However, the hope we are commanded to defend is anchored in the sacrifice of a gentle Son who also turned temple tables over when His Father's house was misused.

When Christians use their God given freedom to follow His command to "speak the truth in love" we help each other "grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." Eph 4:15.

Paula Kuzman

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Paula Kuzman replied to Alan C. Duncan's comment

Alan - I appreciate that you brought 1 Peter into the conversation! I do think, however, that we put undo pressure on ourselves when we widen the phrase 'the reason for the hope that you have' into a command to be able to explain ALL your 'beliefs' - or even further, being able to teach with confidence where evil comes from, why good things happen to bad people, and all sorts of other difficult questions. The reason for the hope that we have is quite simple - Jesus loves us and gave up his life so that we could live. I think sometimes we feel like we have to have an answer for everything, and I think pretending that we even CAN is a huge turn-off to unbelievers.

Alan C. Duncan

2

Alan C. Duncan replied to Paula Kuzman's comment

Paula, I agree that Christian's shouldn't act as if we have it all together or have all the answers. That certainly wasn't something I was trying to imply with my comment.

When an article says that perhaps, "Christians need to lay down their right to publicly speak their minds." I struggle to reconcile that with the Great Commission's mandate of "teaching them [all nations] to obey everything I have commanded you."

We certainly need to be loving, respectful and mindful of our own weaknesses. But God has left us revelation in Scripture about many things. Christians are told to teach the nations those things. As the salt of the earth Christians must never cease speaking the truth in love whenever we feel lead by His Spirit. That's really my main point.

Alan David Simcik

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Alan David Simcik commented…

But too often, we end up defending God by covering up the aspects that we don't agree with or think make Him look bad. Yes, God is Love, and Gracefully accepts anyone who comes to Him, but He hates their sin, and it angers Him when we continue in it. He doesn't need us to protect His public image by focusing on His "nice" aspects and excluding the less palatable aspects. When we "dumb" Christianity down and focus only a few of God's characteristics that we like or agree with, we end up with a skewed view of Him.....

Kaysi

8

Kaysi commented…

ONE THOUSAND AMENS.

Esther Aspling

635

Esther Aspling commented…

Preach it brother! lol
Sharing! :-)

http://forthisisthetime.com/

Kye James

1

Kye James commented…

As an acting Ratio Christi chapter director and someone with a passion for apologetic evangelism I would say that this is easily one of the worst representations of Biblical truth on the issue of using polemics in reaching unbelievers.

Let me start by saying that your heart is clearly in the right place. It's good to know that there are people who care enough about Christ's name to warn His people about their behavior, but your mind is not set on the Scroptural truth (as is demonstrated by your total neglect of the Bible in your article).

Your exposition of the single Biblical passage that you cited is skewed and biased, and obviously tailored to fit your argument.

Your opinions of Christ's ministry are as well. If you will take your time reading the Gospels you will see that Jesus constantly and consistently opposed the Pharisees and even laymen with vigor and often with what you would apparently call "hatred."

You also seem to be implying that Christians have little to no social responsibility. On this matter, I would recommend you read at least the first chapter of John Stott's book "Issues Facing Christians Today" in which he defines 'politics' and the relationship between evangelism an social action.

I'm requesting that you take this article down until you're able to provide at least a coherent, Biblical defense of your position, rather than a short list of popular, contemporary, seeker-sensitive opinion.

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