Agree to Disagree

, by Christopher D. Hudson

The defense of one’s political and moral viewpoints has become something akin to a blood sport in our culture. Social media sites and online comments sections are especially brutal battlefields. Some attacks are so vicious, so vitriolic, that the knee-jerk reaction is to respond with an equal level of venom. Anything less, it seems, is tantamount to surrender.

In the end, little is accomplished by such responses aside from the sacrifice of biblical principles. The damage that can be done in the defense of Christian ideals and principles is staggering.

The Bible sets forth guidelines that sanction such interaction—guidelines that establish civility as the bare minimum that Christians owe their antagonists.

“Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king” (Ecclesiastes 9:17).

Quiet words are words that don’t inspire anger in others. Quiet words ease antagonism and allow real dialogue to occur.

“Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips” (Ecclesiastes 10:12, NIV).

Gracious words acknowledge the worth of people with whom you disagree. Acknowledging people’s worth makes it more difficult to insult or attack them later.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.

Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way” (Matthew 5:11–12).

Sometimes being attacked for holding a certain view or defending a certain Christian principle is a badge of honor.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22).

God holds his people to an incredibly high standard of behavior.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:38–42).

Those who have experienced grace should be the first ones to extend it. Leave revenge to the only One who knows how to repay evil.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.


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Be Shrewd

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Before Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to carry out his ministry, he gave them some sobering advice:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NIV).

He wanted them to understand that they were going to face opposition, resistance, and in some cases, persecution. And he wanted them to face it with a demeanor that would make an impression.

Being “innocent as doves” means turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and showing love to enemies. It means conducting yourself in a way that’s above reproach, and not giving opponents ammunition against you.

What it doesn’t mean is being naive. Hence, Jesus’ instruction to be “as shrewd as snakes.”  Shrewdness—the ability to understand things and make good judgments—can be developed in many different ways, as it relates to Christian ministry.

1. Learn to discern people’s motives and intent.
Jesus offers an excellent model of this. He knew when his enemies were trying to trap him. He saw through their faux respectfulness and seemingly sincere questions. In fact, he often confronted them about their evil intent.

2. Recognize how you’re being perceived.
For better or worse, many people hold some rather strong opinions about followers of Jesus. The more you know about their opinions and preconceived notions, the better equipped you’ll be to address—and, ideally, change—them.

3. Anticipate opposition and debate.
Jesus’ warnings could not be any clearer. His faithful followers will face adversity. It’s not a question of if, but when. Knowing this gives his followers a chance to prepare. If you gird yourself for battle by studying God’s Word and discussing strategy with other trusted believers, you will make yourself a formidable opponent.

The guidelines Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 10:16 still apply today. The nature of the opposition has changed, but the expectations remain. The most effective ambassadors for Christ are shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.


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Christianity Isn't for Dabblers

, by Christopher D. Hudson

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).

Jesus threw down a challenge to all who would follow him. The implications of Jesus’ ranking—and of what it means to love God as he instructed—have been discussed and debated for centuries.

Here are three application points to consider.

1. Christianity isn’t for dabblers.
The kind of relationship Jesus is talking about involves more than a weekly worship service. This isn’t a “Sunday only” kind of love; it’s an immersive 24/7 experience.

2. Loving God is an act of emotion, an act of the will, and an act of the intellect.
It’s not enough to love God when one feels like it. Emotions are fickle. Maintaining a fully committed relationship with him requires effort and determination. Part of that effort involves brainstorming new reasons to love and praise him, as well as creative ways to express love for him.

3. Prayer is essential to obeying the all-time number-one commandment.

Every day brings new opportunities, new problems, new temptations, and new distractions—all of which can interfere with a relationship with God. The best strategy for dealing with these potential disruptions is to ask for help from God himself. Continuous communication is essential to maintaining a fully committed relationship with him.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.


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King of Pain

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Does the Bible still speak to today's problems? Does this ancient book relate to our world? 

If you've felt heart breaking pain, you'll relate to the book of Job: 

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:23–27 (NIV)

If everything good in your life were suddenly taken away, would you remain faithful to God? That question lies at the heart of the book of Job. 

Job was a righteous man—someone so above reproach that God held him up to Satan as a model of servitude. Satan was unimpressed. Of course he’s faithful to you, he countered. He has wealth, family, and excellent health. Take away those things and let’s see how faithful he is. 

God agreed to Satan’s challenge. He allowed the devil to bring tragedy and suffering into Job’s life. First came messengers with news that all of Job’s flocks—the primary source of his wealth—had been stolen or killed. Next came news that all of Job’s children had been killed in a freak storm. And then came the boils—painful skin infections that covered Job from head to foot. 

Job was in agony, emotionally and physically. Yet he stayed faithful, much to the disgust of his spouse. 
“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.’ 

“But Job replied, ‘You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’ So in all this, Job said nothing wrong” (Job 2:9–10). 

Job wrestled mightily with his situation, trying to square his suffering with what he knew about God. He debated friends who blamed him for his misery. He held on to his relationship with the Lord—at times by his fingernails, but he held on just the same. 

And when Satan’s period of testing was over, God restored Job’s health and wealth and blessed him with a new family. 

Job walked the path through the valley of darkness that was laid out before him and emerged with God’s blessing on the other side. The book that bears his name is intended for anyone who desires to do the same in their season of suffering.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.


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