“Smile Real Big!”

By Larry Ray Hafley

Tired of controversy and religious argument? Me, too. However, it is like a doctor who is weary of seeing sick people. It goes with the territory.

Sadly, “the man in the pew” often wants to leave the dirty work of contention to the “man in the pulpit.” There should not be such a concept among the people who claim to be Christians. We are all in the faith together. “Isms” are ever before us. They must be answered over and over and over. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Another deplorable disposition has developed. Like little girls who are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice,” some think the gospel of grace, peace and love is to see who can smile the biggest and broadly beam, “How ya’ doing? Good to see ya… the most often. Religious debate is out of harmony with their view of a “warm, loving spirit.” Mention a “discussion” of a “vital issue,” and they feel like someone who is sitting in a bathtub full of cold liver. Well, friend, the faith of Christ is addressed to the mind and heart of man (Jn. 6:44,45; Lk. 8:11,12), and disputing is one means to combat false theories, philosophies and doctrines. Or do you deny that such things even exist (1 Jn. 4:1)?

The condescending, “I’m too sweet to argue” attitude is an insult to the Lord and the apostles. Besides, one cannot answer the doctrines and commandments of men with his best grin. It is not enough to gently and benignly clear your throat when a false teacher seeks to lead away disciples. You may radiate your most non-violent smile and squirm ever so graciously in the presence of error, but that, as they say, it won’t quite cut it.” You have to study, meditate and “give an answer,” “speaking the truth in love.” The Lord Jesus gave us a sword to wield, not a wand to wave (Eph. 6:10-17).

Further, some seem to believe that gospel preachers are too picky, too contentious. True, some are. Every institution known to God, men or angels has its billy-club bullies and loud-mouthed busybodies who want to transform every question into the Spanish Inquisition. Generally, such arrogant, strife stirrers are obvious. Their cruel crusades and taunting tirades against the good and godly are evident, transparent. Admittedly, there are embittered, jealous, selfish souls who think they can build themselves up by sarcastically and sadistically tearing others down. Their veiled and not so subtle caricatures and innuendos are evidence of sickness. Pity them. But there is no need to lump all honorable disagreements with the dishonorable. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”-that rule works regarding discussions and argument, too. Yes, even some essential contentions can be rather messy (Matt. 23; Acts 13:10; 7:52-60; 17:5; 18:12).

So then, the next time you hear and read a sharp, pointed discussion, do not turn away in pious disgust. You admit that such a task must be performed; therefore, do not sit back and smugly disdain controversy and argument. Even a plumber’s work is not all pleasant, but it must be done, and plumbing is not the only profession that deals with items that are dirty as a drain.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 21, p. 663
November 1, 1984