Visible Grace in Disagreements


How can we enjoy the gospel views from the Sandia Crest or Mount Everest when Timmy is smacking his gum and Sally is blaring TikGram or InstaTok or whatever it’s called?

Here are three things we should strive for:

  1. Christians who are willing to confront but aren’t eager for controversy.
  2. Christians who pursue a gentle revival, not a holy war.
  3. Christians who eavesdrop on Jesus’ intercession instead of joining Satan’s accusations.

Willingness to Confront vs. Eagerness for Controversy

Paul wasn’t afraid to address sin. Just ask the Corinthians. But what first grabbed Paul’s attention when he thought about that rowdy, discriminatory congregation in Corinth? God’s visible grace (1 Cor. 1:4–9). He was willing to confront, but he was not eager for controversy. There’s a difference.

It’s all about your posture. Do you find yourself on the edge of your seat, ready to engage in the latest controversy? Or is your preference to celebrate God’s grace, ready to confront only when necessary (Prov. 15:18; 17:19)?

Jude had a preference: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

He wanted to agree, celebrating God’s grace in their “common salvation.” But he needed to confront those “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).[1]

Like Jude, we shouldn’t prefer controversy—especially when it’s simply to be entertained.

I feel contempt for those who attended the gladiator games, where another’s ruin was their entertainment, where a father’s wounds were their source of glee. But then I remember a talk I heard in middle school, where the speaker compared our fascination with others’ suffering to the ancient appeal of the gladiator games. It’s convicting to think of how many times I’ve laughed about another’s sin, joked about a pastor’s blunder, and made sport of a church’s questionable ministry practice. As I scroll down my Twitter feed, I descend the steps of a modern coliseum, where another’s moral ruin is my entertainment, where a father’s spiritual wounds are my source of glee.

If you want to be countercultural today, don’t let a pastor’s moral failing or a stupid controversy fascinate you (1 Cor. 13:6; 2 Tim. 2:23). Pray. Grieve. Ask for grace. Confront when necessary. But don’t feed your curiosity with others’ sins. As the Puritan Richard Sibbes so helpfully points out, “Men must not be too curious into prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than unto that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume.”[2]

Aren’t you glad that Jesus feels burdened by your indwelling sin, rather than entertained by it? I’m thankful that my weaknesses elicit his warm compassion, not a witty Tweet.[3] Don’t you want more of that heart toward your brothers and sisters in Christ? When they disagree with you, do you “welcome [them] as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7; cf. Rom. 14:1–4)? When they walk in and everyone moves to the other side of the lunchroom, do you sit down next to them? When they don’t deserve love, do you show them grace?

Since you have the Spirit of Christ, you already have that inclination. The Spirit of your gentle and lowly Savior abides in you. And the result is gentleness.

A Gentle Revival vs. a Holy War

After Galatians 5:16–24, one of the most popular paragraphs on the Holy Spirit, what point does Paul double-click on? A gentle spirit:

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 5:25–6:1).

That’s weird. After a prolific treatise on the Spirit, doesn’t denouncing provocation and encouraging gentleness seem like a strange place to go? It seemed odd to me. And then I read Jonathan Edward’s report of the “Great Awakening.” To describe one of the greatest revivals in church history, here’s what he said, “When once the Spirit of God began to be so wonderfully poured out in a general way through the town, people had soon done with their quarrels, backbitings, and intermeddling with other men’s matters.”[4]

That sounds a lot like Galatians 5:25–6:1 to me—an echo of the Spirit of Christ in Matthew 11:28–29.

Christian, one of the greatest evidences of the Spirit’s work in a church is when she is marked by a spirit of gentleness. No, we can’t budge on the gospel, and yes, we must contend for the faith (Gal. 1:6–9; Jude 3). But we’ll never know the power of the Spirit apart from the gentleness of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23; Eph. 4:29–32). So, we need to decide what we want more—a “holy war” or a revival? We must choose whether we’ll be combative, jarring crusaders or courageous, gentle reformers. I’m praying that you want to be the latter. I’m praying for a revival.

The Tone of Jesus’ Intercessions vs. the Sound of Satan’s Accusations

Does the tone of your disagreements sound more like the intercessions of Jesus or the accusations of Satan?

While an antagonistic word can clearly communicate your position, doctrinal clarity is not a valid excuse to satanically accuse those for whom Jesus died (Rev. 12:10). It’s never biblical to be diabolical to the unbiblical. So, when confronting a supposedly errant position, listen to Christ pleading his blood for the saint behind the position. Eavesdrop on the intercession of Jesus. Then reflect the posture of Jesus in your communication.

I wonder, how would our confrontations change if we could hear Christ interceding in the next room?[5] If we heard him pleading,

Father, forgive them
They don’t know what they’re doing.
Look at my righteousness—
Don’t look at their unrighteousness.

How would our tone change? How would our word choice change? Friend, let Christ’s intercession for your brother or sister be the background noise as you confront your brother or sister.

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Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from Visible Grace, a new short book from 10ofThose. Get the free discussion questions to use with your church.

[1] Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On (Minneapolis: The Gospel Coalition, 2020), p. 94.

[2] Richard Sibbes, Works, 1:57.

[3] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), pp. 69, 71.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Iain Murray’s book Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (East Peoria: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), p. 115.

[5] The idea of hearing Christ pray in the next room comes from Robert Murray McCheyne: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies” (The Life and Remains, Letters, Lectures, and Poems of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne [London: Forgotten Books, 2018], p. 138).

Caleb Batchelor

Caleb Batchelor is an Assistant Pastor at First Baptist Church of Boynton Beach.

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