In light of recent events in my community, I’ve had to do thinking and praying about how to engage controversial issues in a way that honors the Lord. I was drawn back to a letter written by John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace.
The letter, written to a friend of Newton, is called “On Controversy” and can be found online.
Newton has 3 main points—when engaging in controversy over the truth, we need to consider our opponent, the public, and ourselves.
Our Opponent: Newton reminded his friend that before he sets his pen to paper, he must set his knees to prayer on behalf of the person in error. This is the only way that the engagement is done with love and pity; gentleness and moderation—not for the sake of winning the argument, but ultimately winning the person to the truth. This approach also guards the heart against anger and resentment (Prov 4:23). Prayer also commits the entire cause to God’s sovereignty. Only he can change the human heart.
The Public: His basic point here is that if we write something that goes public (think Facebook), that the world is watching. Even the unbeliever who reads expects a certain level of decency and charity coming from a confessing Christian. So be sure to live up to that. If in the zeal of the moment we come across bitter and scornful, it will quickly discredit our message and us. A spirit of true humility is a great example to others.
Ourselves: There is a strong tendency to allow pride, the subtle enemy of our soul, to take over. Or to let the controversy take center stage and communion with God gets pushed to the periphery. Always be sure that being a faithful disciple of Jesus remains the main thing. We can never go wrong there.
*Photo credit: unsplash--quino al