A popular, yet dangerous, myth maintains that God wants His people to be known by what they are for, not what they are against. After all, Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, ESV). Therefore, it is argued that Christians should be silent on divisive cultural issues and the consequences of immorality. Instead, we should show love to others by being willing to overlook their sinful behavior as we proclaim the love, mercy, forgiveness, and patience of God. In an article titled “Should Christians Not Be Known for What They Are Against?” Pastor Eric Davis provides an outstanding rebuke of this popular notion. What follows are highlights from his article.
Such sentiments produce compelling memes and attractive sermons that sound noble, but they are far from biblical. Eight of God’s ten commandments involved an explicit instruction to be against something (Exo. 20). As the people of God, Israel was expected to be a holy people to the nations, meaning that they were to be known for their differences. Indeed, entire chapters of commandments saying that the people “must not” and should “never” begin with the prefaces, “Since you are the people of the Lord your God,” and “You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure” (Deut. 14:2).
Likewise, the apostle Paul indicates, in Ephesians, that God’s people should be against living like unbelievers (4:17–22); falsehood (4:25); stealing (4:28); unwholesome speech (4:29); grieving the Holy Spirit (4:30); bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander (4:31); unforgiveness (4:32); sexual immorality, impurity, and greed (5:2); filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking (5:4); and the works of darkness (5:11). Paul challenges Christians to expose evil and to oppose false doctrine (Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 1:3).
Many New Testament books were written specifically to refute and correct false teaching. Paul instructs the Corinthian church to be against self-aggrandizement (1 Cor. 1–2); self-ambition in ministry (1 Cor. 3–4); bragging (1 Cor. 4); refusing to carry out church discipline (1 Cor. 5); inter-Christian lawsuits and sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6); unbiblical divorce and aimless singleness (1 Cor. 7); self-centeredness in liberties (1 Cor. 8–9); and confusion in corporate worship (1 Cor. 14). Galatians is written to let everyone know that God’s people are to be against the idea that anyone can be acceptable before God apart from justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, and Colossians opposes teachings that Jesus was less than fully God and truly human.
At the end of his ministry, Peter devotes an entire chapter to opposing false teachers and their doctrines (2 Pet. 2). Likewise, Jude begins his letter with the explanation:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 1:3–4).
Even Jesus was hated by many because of what He was known for being against. Jesus opposed self-aggrandizing attitudes that could not receive correction, were sensitive to reproof, and were unwilling to confront sin. Often, this placed Jesus in direct opposition to the religious leaders of His day (Matt. 21:45–46; 23:1–36; Luke 11:45–46).
We cannot be known by what we are for without also being known by what we are against. We cannot truly love people if we are unwilling to oppose and punish those who rape and murder. We cannot value health if we are not opposed to disease and lifestyle habits that diminish our health. We cannot cherish being created in the image of God if we are not opposed to racism and prejudice. And we cannot champion morality if we are willing to turn a blind eye to rampant immorality. Being for something necessitates that we also be against something else. They are two sides of the same coin, which may be the reason the Bible never commands us to be known by either what we are for or against. Instead, God’s goal for His people is broader: “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31b). As King Solomon concluded, God expects us to “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13b). Sometimes this means championing something, and sometimes it means opposing something.
God does not devote huge portions of His word to identifying what He opposes and to warning of the consequences of ignoring His instructions for no purpose. As God’s representatives, God expects us to share these truths with others. Therefore, we cannot be silent on moral issues, and we cannot neglect to warn others of the personal and national consequences of continued sinful rebellion to His instructions.
Davis, Eric. “Should Christians Not Be Known for What They Are Against?” Cripplegate, March 20, 2019. https://thecripplegate.com/should-christians-not-be-known-for-what-they-are-against.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.