As I was thinking through this post, I found myself glancing back to my elementary school classroom of decades ago. Things were very different then. We’d (oh yes, I’m including myself) cut up, misbehave, and be disruptive until we heard the bellow from Miss What-ever-her-name-was….” stop it right now”. At that point, we’d know that we had crossed the line, and we’d square up.
“Stop it!” was something I would hear at home (or in the car) when I was annoying my sister until the point that she was showing signs of an emotional melt-down. When I heard it, I instinctively knew that the next thing to happen would be a form of punishment that I wouldn’t relish at all, so I would cease and be Mr. Nice Guy for a while.
This post, however, isn’t about this type of stop it. It’s about something that has unfortunately been on my heart a while. But first a disclaimer, because my sense is that some folks may take umbrage or feel offended by what I am going to share. My only reason for sharing it is my hope that if it does strike a nerve in anyone that it causes them to hopefully spend a bit of time soul-searching.
I am probably as conservative and evangelical as a lot of folks. It’s my chosen way of thinking and behaving in these closing years of my life. And I believe it is based on sound wisdom I have found during my later life, but most importantly, that it is scriptural. Simply put, I am dismayed by the amount of folks whom I would place into the category of Gospel Gestapo.
In that category are those who sanctimoniously will not hesitate to not just spot sin in another’s life but seem to go out of their way to look for it, judge it, and unceremoniously, in a public display of indignation basically say, “stop it right now.” And they may be those who are so obsessed by the need to follow (out of context, I believe) the Great Commission, that they become in-your-face witnesses—to the point of, in my opinion, hurting the cause of winning souls for Christ. In essence, I believe that in those cases it has become a numbers game (they seem often to be keeping score), or even a look-how-much-I-know game as they dutifully cherry pick verses to fit their narrative.
In either of the above situations what almost always seems lacking is any effort at first developing relationships through which to let their light shine. It’s more about the people, or numbers, than it is about the heart. And yet, it’s not uncommon at all to hear one of the Gospel Gestapo very solemnly share how they were “led by God” to point out the faults (and sins) of others to those others, or to get into the face of a stranger like Typhoon Mary with the word.
They take the words of Mark 16:15 very literally (and in my mind out of context) where he says: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Taken in such a way means, I think, that they have free license to proclaim the word not just boldly (which it should be), but in a no-holds-barred manner that is often offensive to one who may be either a non-believer or one on the fence. And I sense, that in doing so many are truly being, at least under the surface, judgmental rather than doing so strictly out of love for another. They are trying to appease the heart of God rather than reaching the heart of man.
I believe Peter nails it in that verse, and it offers a wonderful blueprint for the average person who may be not well versed biblically to be able to share their faith and witness right from their heart as opposed to from their mind. The key words are obviously “gentleness and respect.” I see no opportunity for the Gospel Gestapo to go into action following Peters words.
Additionally, I love the way Jesus said it in Matthew. Note that He didn’t say “make your light shine”, but rather let your light shine. This is telling me that if I am living my faith, and my heart is showing my faith, that I am therefore letting my light (I came out of darkness into the light, after all) shine so that others can see. I am exemplifying the Jesus way rather than ramming it down the throats of others. Nope, not Gospel Gestapo there either.
I think that the whole issue of witnessing is not so much about the winning, but rather about the great opportunity it offers us to not only proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior through our behavior and demeanor, but most importantly through our hearts. Our hearts will gather much more fruit, and lasting fruit at that, than our words ever will.
So, here’s what I say; Stop it Gospel Gestapo. Let’s win this battle with our hearts, not our works and words.