Humility, Unity, and the Overly Opinionated Christian


If Americans are known for one thing globally, it’s that we’re a bunch of opinionated cusses. And if anything, social media and the Internet have not only made us more so, they have made us militant about ensuring we express those opinions in public spaces.

Take the recently concluded legal case of George Zimmerman, accused of shooting black teenager Trayvon Martin. My Facebook Wall had a number of people commenting on this case. In addition, the Internet practically swelled with opinions on the verdict.

Here’s the breakdown:

Whites = Justice was done. Now let’s move on.

Blacks = Justice was stymied. The verdict needs to be thrown out.

I happen to know the religious affiliation of many of those with an opinion, and here is what I noted:

White Christians = Justice was done. Now let’s move on.

Black Christians = Justice was stymied. The verdict needs to be thrown out.

If I were not a Christian, the only conclusion I could draw from that outcome is Christianity makes no difference in the way people think. Their upbringing, race, viewpoints—whatever—are untouched by their faith. Being “born again” doesn’t really change anything.

What a terrible witness!

The problem as I see it is that we Christians too often let our opinions overwhelm our Christianity. The average unsaved person sees this happen so often that they immediately form “antibodies” against the truth of the Bible and, ultimately, against Jesus. That’s not the fault of the Lord, but it is the fault of us who bear His name.

There’s a second problem. In the case of the Zimmerman trial, neither you nor I were privy to all the details of that trial, yet we are commenting on it like we are experts. We offer an opinion based on incomplete facts, and then we spout that ill-informed opinion to the world and draw our line in the sand for everyone to see.

And that’s a sin.

What the Bible says:

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
—Matthew 5:37 ESV

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
—Titus 3:9-11 ESV

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
—Colossians 3:12-15 ESV

There is something in the American Collective Experience that makes it a crime not to have an opinion about this topic or that. Christians cannot fall for that lie. If we are to be salt and light to a dying world, our response must always be 180 degrees from the prevailing wisdom of the world. Always.

If we are to truly let our yes be yes and our no no, then there are times when our only response to situations in which we lack all the facts is to say:

“I don’t have all the facts, so I’m going to refrain from speculating rather than potentially dishonoring the Lord by offering my unenlightened opinion.”

Blasting our opinionWhat if each of us who claims to be a Christian started responding that way?

Feels a little humbling, doesn’t it? Suddenly, we’re not a subject matter expert on every little topic that comes down the pike. In addition to humility, not having an opinion all the time may actually cut down on the dissension that is ripping apart our society and even our churches. Did you spot that word in the list of things Paul said Titus should avoid? Well, are we avoiding dissension or not? Or is letting others know our opinion more important than unity?

This is not to say that we cannot speak truth when it needs to be spoken. However, much of what we pass off as truth is just our fact-deficient opinion about something we probably know less about than we think we do.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
—1 Corinthians 2:1-6 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
—2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ESV

Christians are to know Christ alone and Him crucified. Our charge is to be ambassadors for Christ. Our message is to be one of reconciliation.

Which is more important then, our opinion about some topic about which we most probably lack many of the facts, or reconciling people to Jesus?

Are we driving away people from Jesus because we feel compelled to comment on some political happening? Is our identity in Christ that weak that we must ensure people know where we stand on issues we actually know little about? Are we that arrogant that we think our input is the deciding factor? Are we drawing lines in the sand over some opinion based on grains within that sand rather than the truth of God?

I’m going to start defaulting to this more often:

“I don’t have all the facts, so I’m going to refrain from speculating rather than potentially dishonoring the Lord by offering my unenlightened opinion.”

How about you?

The Synergy of Thanksgiving and Humility


Today is Thanksgiving Day in America. We have so much to be thankful for. I just wish more of us were fixated on the providence of the Lord and less on schemes for hitting the right stores in the proper order to maximize our savings potential on Black Friday.

I know: “Dan, don’t be a curmudgeon on Thanksgiving Day.” Received. Noted.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about humility in the wake of the 2012 election results. The more I think about humility and reflect on Thanksgiving Day, the more I understand this:

Truly humble people are always thankful. Truly thankful people are always humble.

It’s funny how those two go hand in hand.Norman Rockwell's 'Freedom from Want'

Maybe the reason for so little humility in America is that we have forgotten how to be thankful. Maybe the largesse we have experienced for so long has short-circuited our ability to step back and see that God’s providence trumps our own efforts, with all our gains less under our control than the Lord’s. Because we make too much of our own work, we forget what it means to be humble.

And so the loop goes on and on.

More than anything, I want to be a thankful person. I don’t want to look on anything good I receive in life and say, “I deserve that!” Because I don’t. And neither do you.

If that doesn’t humble us, I don’t know what can.

Truly humble people are always thankful. Truly thankful people are always humble.

Be both thankful and humble this Thanksgiving Day.


Godly Humor & Knowing When to Laugh


In the heyday of The Late Great Planet Earth, an impressionable young man was accosted by an itinerant street corner preacher of the apocalypse. “Son, you better get right—or get left,” the preacher shouted into his face. Unnerved by the encounter, the young man decided to do something about his predicament. So he joined the John Birch Society.

That’s a Dan Edelen original, folks. It’s also about as close as I come to poking fun at the events of this last weekend’s Rapture bust.

The impression most people get about me from this blog is that I’m a super-serious, modern day counterpart to that street corner preacher of the joke. Laughter humor funPeople who meet me in person are often struck by the fact that I’m funnier than they thought and not so deadly serious. In fact, some people don’t understand why I’m laughing all the time.

Fact is, I love to laugh. People who can’t laugh at themselves when they should or who can’t lighten up at all bother me more than just about any kind of person. Something IS wrong with a stick in the mud.

Which is why I want to point out what bothers me about how we Christians joke around.

I read a ton of barbed yucks at the expense of Harold Camping and his followers over the last month. I can expect that from people who aren’t Christians, as the whole Rapture thing—even when viewed biblically and with solid theology—sounds weird to unbelievers. No surprise. It was the sarcasm from Christians that took me aback, though.

I was 25 in September 1988 when 88 reasons were given by some Rapture aficionado for the removal of the Church that month. I recall the stories of the euthanizing of pets, the homes sold, the bunker mentality, and so on. I also remember the subsequent suicides, the financial ruination, and the falling away by those who pinned their hopes on getting out of here on the predicted date, which obviously came and went.

In short, none of that aftermath was funny then. That stuck with me for this latest go-round of Rapture predictions. It’s why I wasn’t laughing over the Camping fiasco. Likewise, false teachings and false prophecy are not funny because they take a human toll.

The Bible says this:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
—1 Peter 5:5b

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
—Philippians 2:3-4

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
—Galatians 5:14-15

My experience in life is that cutting humor used against others has a surefire way of backfiring. When we’re making fun of someone else, it almost always has a way of getting out of hand.

It’s an issue of humility on our part, too. Sure, someone may be woefully deceived, but our role is not to  stand apart from that person but to help in any humble way we can to restore them to truth. Mocking others never accomplishes this goal.

Those Christians I have known who have had the most effective lives for Christ and for reaching out to others are universally NOT known for their jibes. Quite the contrary, they have a winsomeness that attracts people and lets those hurting or misled people know that they are dealing with someone who is safe and can be trusted. In such an adversarial age, when mocking is considered a high art by some, and people go at each other’s throats over the littlest things, shouldn’t the Christian response run counter to the way of the world?

At my core, I am an arrogant person. Of all the sins that afflict me, pride is the worst. I thank God daily that He continues to weed out this toxic root in my life. I truly believe that I am a more humble person today than I once was.

More than once in my younger days, I was confronted by fellow believers who told me I used humor to hurt other people. And they were right. It was a way of making myself look superior. But it was stupid on my part, and I know that now.

I share that because many Christians are still in that place of thinking more of themselves than they ought. It’s why their ministry is less effective than it could be. It’s why other people don’t seek them out when they need help. It’s why no one wants to listen to them when they try to witness. It’s why those Christians give up witnessing at all.

But this is a post about humor, and I don’t want to be all dour lest I perpetuate that false view that I’m some deadly serious killjoy.

I can’t point to any Scriptural mandate here, but I think humor works best within the shared human experience. Rather than poking fun at one person or at a group of people who have a serious problem, when we laugh at the silly things that afflict us all we find a way to cope with the world. God gave us laughter, and I think humor—when used rightly—has a way of defusing tension and making life more manageable. When we use humor to create tension, especially tension in or toward a person or group of people who are “not us,” we stray from God’s best.

Many years ago, I was at a large Christian retreat center. My group had plans, but I had others, so I stayed behind in the lodge and talked with an elderly man. We sat around and enjoyed the glorious day, relaxing and telling jokes. He was a stitch and had me in tears at several points. Just a really funny guy. When I asked him his name, he said, “J. Oswald Sanders.” I was stunned. This was the great biographer of the apostle Paul and one of the foremost theologians of the age.

So yes, Christians can be funny. Even the heavyweights.

And they should be.

Truthfully, too many Christians need to learn to lighten up. We all need to learn to laugh at ourselves a bit more, but not in a way that hurts others. I think that only comes with a willingness to be humble and to recognize that life is hard. Even if it isn’t hard for us, it may be for someone else, and we need to consider the state of another person’s life before we assault them with joking. We do need to consider what is funny for us may not be funny for someone else. Better that we find something mutually funny, something in the shared human condition, that makes it less about our superiority and more about the positive attitude that faith in Christ brings to help us overcome the vagaries of life.