We live in a culture that has, for the moment, seemingly lost sight of the values of mercy, patience and grace. Strife and animosity, too often, seem to be the rule of the day as various factions within the culture vie for dominance. One of the aspects of this is that phenomena which has come to be known colloquially as “cancel culture,” wherein a person is forced out of their job or other opportunities because of a position they hold, or things they have said.
As the topic seems to be one arousing much passion and heat from all sides, it seems a good time to take a step back, as a Christian, and ask ourselves, “what does God have to say about how we should respond to this sort of behavior?”
Of some importance is the fact that the Gospel of Christ teaches clearly that Christians should not be participating in such behavior, not even, or especially not even, in retaliation for those that might be seeking to “cancel” Christians. Rather, we should be kind, merciful, patient, and forgiving, remembering the mercy that God has shown us, even when we did not deserve it. Verses to this effect are easily multiplied, but consider the following as being representative:
“Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:39, 44; ESV).
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32; ESV)”
“Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him’… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21; ESV)”
Some, hearing such advice and doctrine, are going to scoff. Some imagine that times are different, and the circumstances of the present demand “harder,” “tougher” responses if Christians and Christianity are going to survive. Such thinking would seemingly advocate that the best response to people trying to punish you for your believes is to punish them first for theirs. But times are not any different and the behavior we see today merely wears a new name for there is nothing new under the sun. Jesus was crucified by His enemies for the things He said and taught. The apostles of Christ were imprisoned and executed for the faith, and Christians in the 1st Century were liable to lose their jobs, their families, their freedom and even their lives for the things they believed and said. Yet still they were told to bear it patiently and treat their enemies with kindness.
Beyond this, the Bible gives further direction to Christians facing such a culture. Simply put it is this: “Behave!” That is, behave in such a way that others will have no complaint about you or your faith.
The apostle Paul told young Titus:“ Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:7-8; ESV).”
Peter gave the same advice, with even more elaboration: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 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. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17; ESV)”
While others may forget the value of mercy and kindness, Christians never should. We cannot allow the animosity of others to alter who we are. At the same time, we should be doing our very best to be living lives of such love and kindness, that the world will have nothing to hate in us, except that love.
It is with love that the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions or comments please share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.