Mark Alan Williams
Jesus Wasn’t Always Seeker Sensitive
Neither Were Other Leaders of the Bible
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Carolyn and I just got back from a wonderful vacation to the Caribbean. On Sunday we had the joy of attending St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas. Rev. Bryn MacPhail gave a message from Galatians 3 starting with verse 1 which reads, “You stupid people of Galatia! Who put you under an evil spell? Wasn’t Christ Jesus’ crucifixion clearly described to you?” (Galatians 3:1 GW)
“Kirk” is a Scottish word meaning “church.” This church’s history goes back to 1798!
Wow, he actually called them stupid!
The Phillips paraphrase reads even more strongly, “O you dear idiots of Galatia…”
It’s almost funny how bluntly he spoke to them. Not many pastors would speak to their congregations that way today—or else they probably wouldn’t be pastors for long.
But there are many other instances of blunt rebuke in the Bible by other spiritual leaders:
John the Baptist: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Matthew 3:7 NKJV)
When speaking to the Chief Priest Ananias we read, “Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?’” (Acts 23:3 NKJV)
Paul encouraged Titus saying, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” (Titus 1:13 ESV)
By far the most common “straight talker” was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
When one of Jesus most faithful followers opposed His plan to die on the cross we read, “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’” (Matthew 16:23 NKJV)
“Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house is a house of prayer,” but you have made it a “den of thieves.”’” (Luke 19:45-46 NKJV)
“Then Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’” (Luke 9:41 NKJV)
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” Matthew 23:33 (ESV)
So what’s my point? Here it is: There is a time for straight talk.
Reading Facebook and talking with believers, it seems that being Seeker Sensitive has so eclipsed “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) that the only people some Christian criticize is other Christians who have the courage to call sin, sin. What a shame.
When I recently wrote about What to do When the White House Celebrates Sin, I was strongly criticized by one believer for writing something that could offend unbelievers. As if the last thing we would ever want unbelievers to know is that the Bible actually calls some practices “sin.”
The biggest potential problem with a “let’s never call sin, sin” approach is that no one ever has anything to repent from.
In addition, when we don’t call sin, sin, then Christians get confused. Some think homosexual practice and “gay marriage” is acceptable.
At this point you might think that I am opposed to a Seeker Sensitive approach. In fact, I am not.
I am only opposed to that approach when it never proclaims the truth of God’s Word.
I am for BALANCE.
Again, “speaking the truth in love’ is the appropriate approach and what I believe is the example biblical leaders set.
Some Christian leaders today argue, “you don’t have to tell people they are sinners, they already know it.” That might be true some of the time, but not always. In fact, I think it is rarely true, because most people are not seeking a solution for their sin. They are practicing whatever sins they can get away with, and still not go to jail or perhaps end their marriage.
It seems very few people realize the full weight of their sins—that their sins separate them from a holy God for eternity.
When I wrote an article about our sin nature titled “Why I Burned My Sister at the Stake” one Facebook friend from high school replied strongly that he was no sinner. (See also my article “Who Needs Jesus, I’m a Good Person.”) I think he spoke for many. He was offended that I would suggest he is a sinner who needs forgiveness.
So rather than being more Seeker Sensitive in terms of calling sin, sin, we need to be more straightforward.
You might ask: But what did the Apostle Paul mean when he wrote “I have become all things to all men so that by all means I might reach some.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
I believe he meant not allowing a barrier such as circumcision to keep a person from Christ. (See Acts 16:3)
I am all for eliminating barriers:
Using contemporary music that people can relate to.
Using a Bible version that is easily understandable.
Not using theological terms (sanctification, propitiation, etc.) in church services without explanation, so that unsaved people cannot understand what is being said.
But when it comes to making sure people know they are sinners in need of a Savior, let’s speak the truth forthrightly so people know that God has established standards and people must be saved from their sins.
As Pastor MacPhail in Nassau pointed out, this is certainly the biblical approach.