The grapes of truth


When I first decided to move beyond letters to the editor in laying down my two cents, I created my own website and called it Expression is Wine. I took the title from an entry in a popular daily devotional called My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Here’s what it says:

If you cannot express yourself on any subject, struggle until you can. If you do not, someone will be the poorer all the days of his life. Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else.
Go through the winepress of God where the grapes are crushed. You must struggle to get expression experimentally, then there will come a time when that expression will become the very wine of strengthening to someone else.
. . . Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.

When I first read this I was so encouraged by the confirmation that expression can really be a struggle sometimes, because it often is for me. But also challenged by the notion that, like grapes need to be crushed if there is to be any wine, my struggling may be what is necessary to relieve the struggle in others, when I am able to express what they too have felt or thought.

So some recent posts on Facebook are giving me purple feet today. They basically said that:

  • The only social issue Christians really care about is gay marriage. And…
  • Truly biblical heterosexual marriages lead to abuse.

Though ostensibly not meant to be personal attacks on any friends who happen to be Christian, these and other shared memes and news links that distort the truth about Christianity reflect on us anyway and feel personal. What’s more, they quite often convey a certain hostility that then becomes difficult to separate from the one who posted it.

I’m sure I speak for a lot of Christians when I say that we accept and even welcome honest and fair criticism of specific people or ideas. We are all too familiar with our own failings and grieve over them and also the very public failings of others whose notoriety attracts a level of attention that we in our relative insignificance are spared. But the operative word here is “fair.” When anyone posts an unqualified unflattering or critical depiction of Christianity that does not accurately reflect the truth, they are unfairly maligning a whole segment of the population. And when a non-Christian does it, one can’t help but get the sense that the maligning was exactly their intention.

Now, of course, we are called to “turn the other cheek” and all that. But does that mean we are not to respond to injustices directed at our faith? Not to call out those who are taking potshots at an opposing worldview so as to diminish it in the eyes of all who are not firmly in the camp?

It’s this influence on others and on the name of Christ that draws me to respond. I can brush off an unfair criticism directed at me only, but when those for whom Jesus died are being dissuaded from believing in him because of false claims, and my God who created all things and wants all to be saved is being diminished and disparaged along with all who hold to a biblical worldview, I’ve just got to stomp on some grapes.

Ouch. I’m stomping too hard. I confess to a little anger over this. Can I plead righteous anger…the kind of anger we’re allowed to have, as it says in Ephesians 4:26? I’m not really angry so much as irritated. It’s just so unfair. Not just to Christians but to those who might find what they’ve needed and been looking for, even if they don’t realize it, if the Gospel was presented to them accurately.

But God is sovereign, and he will bring to himself those who seek him. Am I to passively stay out of the way? No. I am to follow his lead and speak the truth. In love. And if the truth and nothing but the truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what saves us from sin and eternal death, isn’t its sometimes passionate defense the loving thing to do?