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A Right to Defer

Posted Saturday, October 23, 2010, at 5:17 AM

"But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5.39)

The essence of the message of Jesus of Nazareth called the Christ is that He is the Way to God; all other ways being tenuous and treacherous paths. An interesting paradox is contained within all religions with such a message: On the one hand, if one really believes one has ultimate truth leading to some unseen goal, is that person not obligated to proselytize? On the other hand, does the one holding another view have the right to not be proselytized?

Christianity, as with all religions which endure for 2,000 years, has always been a belief system that entails aggressively putting forth its doctrine. Without Christians "proselytizing" we would have some other civilization than now exists. However, in this observation of the last 60 some years, the methods utilized by Christians, and only Christians, have come to be seen as "overly aggressive." This has led, again in this observation, to rejection of both the Christian messengers and the message by the politically correct and the popular culture.

The result of this rejection largely displays itself in the portrayal of Christians as being innately despicable, particularly in portraying evangelical Christian. I may have missed something, but when is the last time any movie or TV program portrayed the "reverend" in a positive light? [Interestingly, such depictions are quite rare in regards to those religious beliefs that might react with something other than Christian charity].

This situation involving public media antipathy is not entirely unjustified.

There are groups, such as ones recently chronicled, who demand the right to exercise -- with actions and symbols -- their legal right to defame the name of Christ. These, often most vocal and ardent, only add to the popular conception of the church as being something much different than the Church is to be.

Perhaps it has not occurred to such adherents that implicit in the Courts defense of one's right to defame is a right to defer. As my father taught me, "no one has an obligation to exercise every right which they possess."

So, how does one balance conviction with convention in this Christian witnessing thing?

Does one put forth vociferously one's position to all within hearing? Whatever the current winds of popular thinking, this approach does work. It works, and is legitimate, to the degree the witness can say, "This is what I was, this is what I am, and this is what Jesus did in my life."

Or, does one purchase placards and signs or advertising declaring, "I am of Christ?"

Or, does one in the normal course of human events simply let their words and deeds speak, displaying a life which gives witness and allows for testimony as the Holy Spirit opens opportunity?

It has been a while, but someone once came by soliciting our advertising in one of those "Christian" business listings. It is not clear at this distance whether the solicitor knew something about my son's business or myself; or if it was just a matter of calling on everyone in town. Exactly what, besides payment, was required to be so listed eludes me. But, it never seemed paying to advertise oneself as "Christian" was quite the right balance of a witness. We exercised a right to defer.

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@frontier.com.



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