Speaking from the perspective of one demon to another, Randy Alcorn writes in The Ishbane Conspiracy:
“Unfortunately, the Enemy is a subversive opportunist. We must continuously feed them secondary causes. Otherwise, they could see through the smoke and mirrors and turn to His primary cause.”
The other day someone came to my house and told me about a neighbor who had given birth but soon after the baby stopped breathing. The woman telling me this was visibly upset and I too was in shock, having seen the pregnant woman walk by my house for the past few months. In the middle of this scene, my kids tried to rope me into one of their bickering sessions (in loud English) about how one kid wiped crumbs from the table onto the floor that the other kid was trying to sweep. They went through a series of “nuh-uh; yeah-huhs” when I asked them to wait for me in my room.
I sat them down and had the same conversation with them that I have with them every day; namely, that I wasn’t sure who was in the right and in the wrong in the controversy, but that I was sure that the few crumbs on the floor was of little importance. And that it was these little squabbles that blind us to what is nearest to the heart of God. The daily round-and-round bickering and passion about silly things reminds me of the quote written above. Satan continues to occupy us with little injustices so that we will be too consumed to see what God considers significant.
I am persuaded that childish bickering about things that don’t matter is a condition common to man regardless of one’s age or culture. For instance, I went to go see the lady who had lost her baby and she wouldn’t shake my hand (which is somewhat scandalous in this culture). Her mother who was with her said that she couldn’t shake anyone’s hand for a time because if she did then she wouldn’t be able to conceive in the future. Whether this custom can be scientifically proven or not is of little importance. What is important is that this custom is adding a burden to an already grieving mother. Scripture calls us to bear one another’s burdens, not add more unnecessary ones. They were standing on a soapbox and missing what mattered most.
I see this same attitude in American culture often-times dealing with firm beliefs on vaccinations, dietary practices, and things like how we school our children. There is a lot of passion and bickering flying around about preference issues and we are missing the clear teaching in Scripture that says, “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). If our passions draw us away from our brother in Christ rather than towards him, then we know that our passions are not God’s passions.
So, how do we come off our soapboxes in order to pursue what is near and dear to God’s heart?
Don’t let opinions that are not clearly promoted in Scripture define you.
In America, we tend to define ourselves by our preferences. Here in Cameroon people tend to define themselves by cultural traditions. Both cultures need to take a step back and ask the question : Does this opinion matter to God as much as it matters to me? Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” It is the foolish person who always has something to say about everything. The wise person, however, knows what God loves and what God is silent about and he doesn’t get those two categories confused.
Your Freedom is for Missions.
God’s Word is silent in areas like what we eat, wear, how we medicate our children. But this silence is NOT intended to be fuel for debate but rather freedom so we can win the lost. Paul says :
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Paul does not say that he is free from all so that he can develop strong opinions and bicker about them. No, he says that he is free in order to adopt whatever culture he is trying to win to Christ. What a tragedy to use the freedoms that God has given us in a way that he does not intend for us to use them. We can adopt any dietary system in the whole world SO THAT we can move into any culture in the world with the Gospel. Instead, we take this freedom in order to preach about this diet or that one. The purpose of having freedom in our diets is not to preach about diets, but instead to preach the Gospel.
Remember that God’s causes have never been popular.
Our news feeds are full of peripheral causes that are very important in the world’s system, but which are not given much weight in Scripture. However, what the Lord is passionate about has never been and never will be popular. God’s causes are for his creatures to delight in him (Ps 37:4), to give to brothers and sisters in need (1 John 3:17), to give water to the thirsty (Matt 25:35), to visit people in prison (Hebrews 10:34), to pursue peace with others (Rom 14:19), to pray inside of our rooms where no one can see us (Matt 6:6), to encourage others (Rom 14:19), to love our spouses (Eph 5:25), to teach our children (Eph 6:4), to pursue righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17), and to go all over the world, preach the Gospel and then teach converts all that Jesus said (Matt 28:18-20). Living a life like this is in no way scandalous or newsworthy and yet living a life like this is how we stick to the primary cause of God for our lives.
So, tomorrow, I will tell my kids the same thing. I will tell them that our identities should not be based on our opinions of things that are not explicit in Scripture. I will tell them that God gives us abundant freedom, not to push our opinions down others’ throats, but so that we can blend into the culture we are living in. And I will tell them that if we busy ourselves with what God clearly calls us to in Scripture, we simply won’t have time to climb up onto our soap boxes. May they, may we all, have ears to hear.