Last Thursday I wrote of the need to preserve our ability to argue from morality. I made a key distinction:
You see it is one thing to say, “Abortion is evil.” That’s an assertion. It is another thing to say, “You are evil because you support abortion.” That’s an insult, perhaps even a curse.
The former is arguing from morality, the latter is arguing immorally. Later in the post I discussed the need to earn moral authority. Another way to put that is that our character and demeanor while arguing must match our moral argument. Otherwise we are simply self-defeating.
Jesus saved His greatest condemnations not for the oppressive Roman Empire, but for Jewish religious officialdom. In Matthew 23 He says:
The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
In other words, they knew what was, and was not, moral better than anybody, but they did not behave morally, and thus Jesus Himself dismisses them.
The incivility that marks our current political debate demonstrates a severe lack of moral behavior. Everyone is arguing from morality, but few are arguing morally, i.e. in a moral fashion. The time has come to stop arguing until such time as we have ourselves and our personal morality and behavior in order. Arguments are won more by how we argue than the argument itself.
It is Sunday morning so I am going to get very religious. The greatest, most consequential, argument in human knowledge is the one between God and the forces of evil – Satan if you are so inclined. Consider how God has made His argument. I would suggest to you there are three ways God has forwarded His argument; 1) Slowly and patiently, 2) humbly and 3) sacrificially. Let’s consider each briefly.
God has advanced His argument slowly and patiently. Consider, the argument started before there even was a mankind and has continued throughout our known history. Is there anything slower? Consider, God has the power and authority to simply do away with the forces of evil and leave us no option but to “be good.” And yet in all that time He has not done so. He could win the argument with but a wave of His hand, and yet He has continued to argue rather than simply smite the opposition. With God’s infinite power has come infinite patience.
God has advanced his argument humbly. As just discussed, despite having all the power, God has refused to exercise it. While indeed Lord God Almighty, He has refused to act in a lordly fashion – choosing to argue with His creations as if we are His equals. Consider the Incarnation. Does that not define humility?
God has advanced His argument sacrificially. Christ – the cross – death there is no greater sacrifice.
Contrast God’s methods of advancing His argument with those of the religious officials He condemned, or those that we are seeing in our political discussions of today. I would dare to suggest this Sunday morning that despite how bad things look, despite the nonsense we face and the insults we suffer, the key to ultimate victory lies in arguing as God argues. We must be patient – we may not see victory but if we maintain our character, victory is assured. We must be humble. Despite the superiority of our arguments we are sinners just as our rhetorical opponents. We must be sacrificial. When they throw things at us, we cannot respond in kind. We must rise above and resist the temptation to claim, “They started it.”
We live in harrowing times. Yet, as Christ cajoles us, “Let not your heart be troubled,” for as He follows that up, “ye believe in God.” We do not have to win. We simply have to believe. We may have to suffer, but we can take heart that we do so in service to the ultimate victory.