Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, was the keynote speaker at Charleston Southern University’s annual Values & Ethics Series Nov. 12-13.
Moore addressed the intersection of Christianity and popular culture and used as a text 2 Timothy 2:23, continuing into chapter 3. He used the example of people who have cars plastered with bumper stickers to show how we express our identity. Bumper stickers express our personal beliefs more than they persuade others to agree with us, he said.
“It is easy to spend our life dialoging in culture and expressing outrage in a bumper-sticker way,” Moore said, “rather than in conversations that seek to persuade the other person.”
In the biblical text, Paul is telling Timothy to flee from quarrels and to be kind and gentle with those who oppose him. Moore said when we are engaging culture, it seems counterintuitive to be kind. “We think of kindness as weakness or timidity rather than seeing it for what Scripture says it is: the fruit of the spirit,” he said.
Too often, Moore said, Christians find themselves involved in quarrels and controversies, addressing issues that aren’t really important. “A lot of the outrage we express has less to do with engaging conversation with the gospel and more to do with defending ourselves,” he said. “Instead, Jesus is saying the Lord’s servant must be able to teach.”
Moore said arguing with others, even when confronting them about sin, is not fine. “It’s not fine if you are on a mission to confront people who don’t agree with you,” he said. He suggested having an understanding of spiritual warfare and correcting others with gentleness. “We are not prosecuting attorneys,” he said. “Satan is.”
Moore emphasized that every generation of Christians has always believed that the current generation is the worst it has ever been. Too many times, he said, Christians believe they are losers in the arc of history. But Jesus does not say Christians should run for the hills, Moore said. “He says he is triumphant. We are ultimately winners; so don’t panic, but instead speak with confidence,” said Moore.
Christians have embraced culture, Moore said, and err on the side that says the world is useless and hopeless. “When we are looking at culture, we need to ask: ‘How have I already surrendered to the darkness that is around me?’ We are seeking to win people to the gospel, not to win an argument. Kindness isn’t surrender, and gentleness isn’t retreat,” said Moore.
To regain credibility, Moore said, those who are quarrelsome should recognize their points of vulnerability and refrain from engaging in arguments until they have learned self-control in that area. Also, he said, they should seek out people who will tell them the truth and who will hold them accountable.