Apologetics 15: Be Gentle

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 12, 2021 1 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
~2 Timothy 2:24-26

A servant of the Lord must be gentle. This does not mean be a push-over. We must be strong in our position, unwavering, and unyielding, but at the same time, we need to direct that strength to be used properly. Eric Ludy in his sermon “Shepherding 101” addresses that we must have great strength for bashing wolves, but we must also be gentle when handling sheep. He also describes when he wrestles with his kids, he could very easily crush them, but he restrains himself.

The same concept is true when dealing with apologetics. Jesus is a perfect example of when to show your strength and also when to restrain it. How he handled the Pharisees is a prime example. When it was clear the Pharisees had no interest in hearing what Jesus had to say because they were so disturbed that Jesus would upset their status quo, Jesus was harsh on them. He put them back in their place immediately. However, when they came with questions or when they were simply shocked at how Jesus would handle a situation, He was still firm, but he was gentle with them. He still wanted them to repent and trust Him.

If it’s not obvious enough, this is a HARD thing to balance. One reason why Jesus was such a master at this was that He knew their hearts. He knew and understood their motives. We often don’t. It’s not easy to discern when to use the rod to bash wolves and when to guide and correct sheep. It doesn’t help when we have to face our flesh. “So why don’t we be gentle all the time so we don’t inadvertently bash a sheep?” The counterargument would be: “Why don’t we inspect everyone first, so we don’t let a wolf into the sheep pen?” Again, let me make clear: we are to be harsh to wolves, and gentle to sheep.

But what about the lost? Don’t forget what this passage says about the lost. They have four key characteristics: 1) they don’t know the truth, 2) they aren’t thinking straight, 3) they are trapped in the lies of the devil, and 4) they have been recruited to do the devil’s bidding. Why should we be gentle with these folks? They are lost; they don’t know any better. Few of them really want to be antagonistic against Christians and Christianity. It’s Satan and sin dominating them and controlling them like puppets. Sin is much more than going against God’s commands. It’s a brutal slave master and it controls you. They can’t help but be a slave to sin, and that sin defies God and anything that represents God with everything it has. And yes, that means they willingly choose insanity over admitting that God rules over them. They are willing participants in the sin, but they are not thinking straight or clearly. They think they know what they are doing, and they have concocted all sorts of reasons and explanations for why they are right, but man has a tendency to think logically to the wrong conclusion.

I don’t remember which sermon it came from, but David Wilkerson made this convicting statement: “You should never dare rebuke a brother or sister in Christ unless you have first spent time weeping in prayer over their wayward condition.” Don’t get me (or Wilkerson wrong). He does NOT say, “Don’t confront them.” He says you need to be praying for them.

Todd White is not someone I would ever recommend anyone listen to. He says a lot of false things and he is a genuine fraud (specifically his “leg lengthening” “ministry” that is nothing but an illusion). Last year, he “discovered” Charles Spurgeon and Ray Comfort and publicly “repented” of 16 years of never sharing the actual Gospel (law first, then grace). That received a lot of responses. One week later, he doubled up on everything he had been doing in the past (showing the idea of repentance meant nothing to him) in a very self-centered “how dare anyone question me?” message. Yet in that very narcissistic message, he said this (and I paraphrase): “If you truly think I am in error and going to Hell, why aren’t you praying for me?” He said that statement to those who WERE praying for him.

Being gentle does not mean you are a softie. It means you control your strength with purpose and intention so that God may grant them repentance. One thing I don’t like seeing in apologists (and I am no exception) is the tendency of merely trying to prove one’s point as being correct. While it is completely vital to have truth (without truth you have NOTHING else), there is much more to truth than “I’m right, you’re wrong.” The other problem I see with apologists is the fallacy on the other ditch. Those are the ones who are very charismatic and just likely playing nice, but they want to appease the believer and non-believer and teach something other than historical, Biblical Christianity (which includes the WHOLE council of Scripture, not merely the key passages). The latter are actually even deadlier than the former because the deadliest thing any person could believe is not “non-Christianity” but “almost Christianity.”

Proverbs 15:1 tells us a harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle word will turn away wrath. Our goal is not to prove ourselves to be right, but to win souls. We are to be ambassadors, representing the Kingdom of God, calling for people to make peace with God. How can they make peace with God when those who represent God just show to be enemies of them? We aren’t to appease the lost and surrender any ground to them, however we must be gentle so they may see that God wants them to be at peace with Him. If they don’t make terms of peace, then they will experience the wrath of God. We want them to see that peace with God is the best position to have. Being gentle, even when they are not, will show character they can’t have otherwise. We must be brutally honest with the terms of peace, but we must also be gentle so that the lost may see their sin and their need for a Savior. But to be able to show them our message and the hope that comes with it, we need to be able to teach and to teach gently. That’s for next week.

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MichelleO said...

Excellently said! This may be my favorite essay of yours yet. Thank you!