Lee Habeeb recently wrote a piece here for National Review Online, in which he was encouraging Christians to engage winsomely with our surrounding culture, and to make our peace with the way some things were going. He used the example of gay marriage in the civil sphere. David French wrote a very fine response here, but the money quote is below.
“It took me a long time to realize the following truth: No matter how compassionate, charitable, winsome, and kind you are, if you oppose the sexual revolution you are the enemy.”
And this is precisely why Christians need to learn how to not care at all about certain things, and to care enormously about others. This is what I mean by having thick skin and a tender heart. Hint: this “caring” response must not be measured and evalued by the state-certified Curators of the Perpetual Grievance. They figured out (a long time ago) how to use the tender consciences of Christians against them. It is time that we got wise to that game. The fact that God knows our many faults (Ps. 130:3) does not mean that they have a right to bring charges against us (Ps. 31:13). David had many faults, and he was often attacked with them — but he was not attacked for them.
Think of it this way:
“With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you . . .(1 Pet. 4:4, ESV).
When they are surprised, we ought not to be. We ought not to be surprised when we don’t join them, obviously, and we ought not to be surprised when they malign us for it, just as the apostle Peter outlined for us in the briefing beforehand.
Christians are trained, catechized, to care about the testimony we have with the world. This is important, as Peter does mention in the passage that follows. When we suffer, it ought not be because of murder, or theft, or doing evil, or as a busybody (v. 15). If you are being an outlaw, or a jerk, or a comstockian fusser, and then cry persecution when called on it, that really is a problem. But once Christians learn this lesson about the importance of a good testimony, they almost always start policing their own ranks in a way that ignores what Peter says in all the surrounding context.
We don’t have a poor testimony just because a bunch of “outraged” pagans have agreed to claim that we do. When some Christian says something that is not politically correct, and the baddies all go into outrage mode, calling for apologies, we have to understand that they are running a play from their handbook.
If we go through a fiery trial, we ought not to think that “some strange thing” is happening (v. 12). If we partake in Christ’s sufferings (which includes being slandered), Peter says that we are to rejoice. This lines up with what Jesus taught us on the same subject (Matt. 5:12). If you are reproached for the name of Christ, then you are happy — and the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (v. 14).
This is why, in the Olympic games of our culture wars, it is possible to win a gold medal from God when a bunch of your fellow Christians are embarrassed even to look at you. And that is also why this particular kind of gold medal doesn’t usually go to your head — you can’t hear the national anthem over all the sobbing, and the podium you are standing on is barely visible any more because of the great heap of rotting produce, dead cats, and other objects of questionable origin.
So here is the key. When you are reproached for the sake of Christ, the adversary will almost never issue a press release saying that you are being attacked because you are such a fine Christian. Why would they do that? The point of slander is to make the slander stick. And the point of gullible Christians is to believe them, try to witness to them while staying in line (according to them), and to upbraid you for having provoked them so.