There are two kinds of sorrow. One is a genuine sorrow over sin, and the other is a trap baited by sin. One turns away from displeasing the Lord while the other wallows in displeasing the Lord.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10, ESV).
One sort of grief or sorrow is fruitful. It leads to salvation and no regrets. The other kind of grief just generates more grief. One kind of sorrow eliminates sorrow, while the other kind goes in for sorrow-farming. One plunges dirty hands into a sink full of hot soapy water, while the other uses the same sink to try bathe a tar baby with vegetable oil. One cleanses, and the other defiles.
But both go under the heading of “grief” or “sorrow.” One kind does the work of repenting while the other does the far more complicated work of not repenting.
And this brings us down to the most convoluted question of political correctness, which is a carnal form of false sorrow. The attempt to govern the masses by shaming them into feeling bad about an ever-increasing list of sins, micro-sins, and then nano-sins, has largely discredited itself. But it has only discredited itself in the eyes of those who have actually seen what has been going on over the last several years. That would not yet include those many millions whose politically correct project has been rejected. Many of them are still in denial. There are many who are still trying to run that play.
Moreover, there are many Christian leaders who are trying to run a faint echo of that same play. The PC directors tell us that we must go gently in any discussion of race, sex, gender, colonialism, wealth, etc. Stop. Check your privilege. The sins of the West are grievous, and have smoked to the sun. Any attempt to preach the gospel must begin with an apology, after which point you must listen to a gaggle of voices telling you that an apology is not good enough, and that no, you can’t preach the gospel yet. Not until true social justice has been ushered in. In other words, you can’t talk about your Jesus until after their Jesus has fixed everything. There are many Christian leaders who think that this is somehow a reasonable demand, and that we must prepare them to listen to the message of Christ by allowing them to continue to preach their argle bargle collection of inchoate resentments.
To ignore these PC decrees of theirs is most offensive. And rule one in modern apologetics is never to offend. Your apologetics must be apologetic. In some defense of this approach, there were many situations that made it all feel plausible. People won’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. And you show how much you care by nodding at any tomfool thing they might say, right? So it seemed reasonable—but it was never biblical.
But then the revolt came. There are many unbelievers—very much in need of Christ—who are sick of the suffocating fumes generated by the perpetually offended. They would be interested in hearing from Christians who were not such simpering Christians, who were not Christians who just nodded at everything that the insufferable NPR world touted as upright and moral. But such Christians are altogether rare. They are still around, here and there, but they have been largely embargoed by the Christian sensitivity establishment. Treated as dinosaurs and relics, they were actually visionaries ahead of their time, and now nobody knows what to do.
So here it is the new reality in a nutshell, as seen on the Internet:
Shot: “You don’t get to determine what’s offensive to the offended.”
Chaser: “You don’t get to determine whether or not I care if you’re offended.”
Now I take it as a given that every true Christian wants to live a life of repentance. There is no way to follow Christ and not be a penitent. The Lord built a confession of sin into the prayer He taught us regularly to pray (Matt. 6:12). We are instructed to confess our sins to one another (Jas. 5:16). Living in true Christian community means that love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). If God were to mark iniquity, then no one could stand (Ps. 130:3). We understand that through the law no flesh will be justified (Rom. 3:20). Honest, true, sincere, and ongoing confession of sin is absolutely necessary. By God it is necessary. Before God it is necessary. And we are not talking about the sins of others, but rather our own sins.
Dealing with sin honestly is a necessity. This is to be done with trusted spiritual advisors, with friends and with family, and with those who are directly affected by our sins. But it is not done for the convenience of those who have successfully weaponized the tactic of demanding apologies. And that refers to the world of the politically correct.
So according to the Bible, the face of sorrow is not the face that the Church is to present to the world. Here is Peter, just a matter of weeks after his blaspheming denials of the Lord Jesus.
“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:11–13).
On the day of Pentecost, why didn’t Peter lift up his voice and say something like this to them? It would have been more seemly, more fitting somehow . . .
“Men of Jerusalem, I really shouldn’t be here right now. I would like to deeply and humbly apologize for my recent misconduct, which has made it difficult for this searching generation to hear anything I might have to say. So I want to begin by recognizing that my behavior has deeply hurt many people . . .”
Not only did Peter not talk that way, he proved his repentance by not talking that way.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).
Periodically our ministry here in Moscow becomes the drop off center for various accusations and slander, some of the looking pretty gaudy, like the south end of a north bound baboon. Our task, during such times, is to rejoice and be glad, just as Jesus instructed us. When people cannot find enough vile stuff to throw at you, the attitude we are instructed to take up is that of joy and exceeding gladness (Matt. 5:12). When the tumultuous time comes, the goal is not to stay on for eight seconds. The goal, as my son recently put it, is to stay on until the bull pukes.
The Spirit works in His people by giving them boldness (Acts 4:31; Phil. 1:20; 1 Tim. 3:13). God has not given us a spirit of timidity (2 Tim. 1:7). Now this is the kind of boldness that is not only likely to offend, it was designed to offend. God lays the stone in Zion (1 Pet. 2:6), and it is the precious cornerstone. But that same stone, in that same spot, laid there by God, is the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense (1 Pet. 2:8). And people stumble there because they were appointed to.
Someone once joked that an Englishman is the one who, if you step on his foot, will say to you, “I’m sorry?” As a cultural trait, it can be endearing. But a spirit of polite diffidence, when it comes to matters of law and gospel, is entirely alien to the New Testament. And yet, it is the shrinking spirit that pervades the evangelical world today.
At the same time, whether the world wants its Christians to be nonthreatening and winsome, kind of like the puppies in the safe space room at a university near you, or wants its Christians to come barreling out of the wilderness like some uncouth Tishbite, is not the determining factor. What does the Bible require of us?
Yes, we should be winsome. Yes, we should be able to answer gently in the hope that God will give repentance (2 Tim. 2:25). But this is a gentle boldness, not a gentle milquetoastery. It is gentle strength, not the simpering of the chief ministry dude of Pencil Necks for Jesus. And when it is weak, as it often is, it is a weakness that conquers everything (1 Cor. 1:27). The strength of man goes down before the weakness of Christ like grass before the scythe.
So as we prepare for this new year, this year of our Lord 2017, we must be eager to confess our sins as the grace of God requires it, and be prepared to engage the world through being not sorry at all.