Is it right that invective has been demonized in today’s church, while the mealy-mouthed are regarded as saintly? Have we become soft innocuous pillow cushions that do nothing more than advance the degeneration of any spiritual spine among us?
This man, Martin Luther, gives me cause to consider these questions; as do Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, who also threw some rather punishing blasts from their lips.
More to come, still pondering… comments welcome. (12/01/2011)
(Added, 12/02/2011) I’m reading a brief biography about Martin Luther and I am moving slowly with it primarily because his manner just doesn’t jive with church culture today, at least my church culture. As I read I get a glimpse of this man and his personality, the grace of God in his life and his sinfulness, and I am confronted with some real problems to think through. How could a man with such seeming rancor toward his enemies (and,moreso, enemies of Truth) be the person of historical religious note that we consider with such appreciation in the church today? What I really mean to say is, ‘Was this foul-mouthed offensive cuss really a primary catalyst for the Reformation?’ And, How can this be?!
I’m convinced that many of those I live in community with would be greatly offended by Martin Luther and quickly condemn him for not being a very nice man and certainly not a very ‘christian’ man, maybe myself included. Now based on what I’m reading, there is evidence that could be given to condemn his extremes in the manner in which he spoke of and to and at his enemies. (For context, see the Reformation), but they included wolves in sheep skins… they included all true enemies, overt and covert). So one consideration I’m thinking about it is the current spoken or unspoken policy that strong language is not to be tolerated from or in the Christian community.
Here as some thoughts from Martin Luther…
“I cannot, however, but be surprised to learn whence the novel taste arose which daintly calls everything spoken against an adversary abusive and acrimonious. What think ye of Christ? Was he a reviler when he called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, a progeny of vipers, hypocrites, children of the devil?
What think you of Paul? Was he abusive when he termed the enemies of the gospel dogs and seducers? Paul who, in the thirteenth chapter of Acts, inveighs against a false prophet in this manner: “Oh, full of subtlety and all malice, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness.” I pray you, good Spalatin, read me this riddle. A mind conscious of truth cannot always endure the obstinate and willfully blind enemies of truth. I see that all persons demand of me moderation, and especially those of my adversaries, who least exhibit it. If I am too warm, I am at least open and frank; in which respect I excel those who always smile, but murder.”
The Bible gives us some rather good and clear guidelines on how we are to communicate with people, but have we distorted these guidelines to fit our comfort zones? And what about the content of what we offer to others? Are we ever lovingly open and frank to the point of offense with others… or is a murderous smile more our style?
Can we say with the apostle Paul,
“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25-27)
So, consider this. Is invective appropriate and if so, in what context? Consider too how our manner and content of speech might change if we lived, as John Piper describes, with a “war-time mentality”.