We are closing in on the end of our study through the book of Ephesians, including this extended part where we’ve looked at different aspects of “the armor of God” from chapter six. The message today centers on “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” It reminds us of the reminder given a few verses earlier in speaking of “the belt of truth.”
Few things in our culture today should concern us much as our society’s seemingly widespread decision to turn its back on the thought that there is any objective truth in order to satisfy the call to be tolerant and accepting and condoning of every belief. Except of course for the belief that there is ultimate, objective truth, that this truth is found in the God of the Universe revealed in the Scriptures, and that Christians are called upon to live by, stand up for, and share this ultimate truth of the gospel. It seems sometimes in our culture that is the one thing that one is justified in not tolerating.
A few years ago the Barna Group did some research on the “Christian church” (used generally to speak of all churches and individuals who espouse some faith in Jesus Christ). I shared some of the conclusions from their extensive research, and it is relevant for this week’s message so here’s a little bit from that research. Will we hold everything together with the belt of truth? Will we study and live by the sword of the Spirit?
- What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans–especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 included the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. As the younger generations ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.
- Our biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence has caused Americans to avoid making discerning choices for fear of being labeled judgmental. The result is a Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. This increased leniency is made possible by the very limited accountability that occurs within the body of Christ. There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about. The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for. That may not be surprising in a Church in which a minority believes there are moral absolutes dictated by the Scriptures.
- The challenge today is for Christian leaders to achieve the delicate balance between representing truth and acting in love. The challenge for every Christian in the U.S. is to know his/her faith well enough to understand which fights are worth fighting, and which stands are non-negotiable. There is a place for tolerance in Christianity; knowing when and where to draw the line appears to perplex a growing proportion of Christians in this age of tolerance.