By Dean Inserra
“Christians need to be known more for what we are for than what we are against.”
If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen that bit of unsolicited advice frequently. When I first began seeing those words, I found myself quickly responding to the posts by liking, retweeting, or replying with a “spot on.”
It sounds so positive and hopeful. And frankly, in our negative and cynical society, it is pretty appealing. Even my friends who aren’t Christians agree with the sentiment.
Those words seem to have become part of the official modern-day vernacular for a generation of Christians.
I want to be known for what I’m for, not for what I’m against. I don’t want to be the guy who yells at the neighbors to get off my lawn.
Then something happened, and it caused me to reconsider this popular declaration of Christian culture today.
Reconsidering the Platitude
Rather than just seeing those words and retweeting it without much thought, I started remembering what my dad would tell me as a kid and decided to “consider the source.”
I noticed there was only really one type of person routinely making this claim, and they aren’t often fond of evangelical theology.
Those who regularly say Christians should be known only for what we are for frequently post about what they are against. They loudly proclaim they are against human trafficking, racism, bullying, and abuse.
I’ve never had someone tell me I shouldn’t be known for what I’m against whenever I speak out against those sins and injustices.
Instead, I get retweeted and liked. My replies fill up with people thanking me for speaking out on the important issues of the day.
The tune changes, however, when I speak against things with which the world disagrees with evangelicals.
When I speak about the negative consequences of the sexual revolution or the destructiveness of abortion, the applause dies away. I’m left with the instruction to be known more for what I’m for.
But regardless of popular opinion, the Bible tells Christians exactly how we are to be known. People “should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
To follow Jesus means to follow One who was known both for what He was for and what He was against. He pointed people to a better way, as He corrected their views and ways of life.
Jesus confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and challenged them to a new way of life. He comforted the women caught in adultery, but then called her to leave her sin behind. Similarly, the Bible corrects, rebukes, and encourages.
It would be ridiculously presumptuous to suggest we have a better way of doing things than our Savior and the Scriptures. To be for something often must begin in declaring clearly what one is against.
The Necessity of Opposition
Advocating for a culture of life doesn’t make much sense if no one recognizes the consequences of a culture of death. We are for a culture of life, and we define that, in part, by how we oppose the inhumane practices that undermine human dignity brought about by a culture of death.
When Paul wrote about God’s design for marriage, he also explained the ways people could mistakenly rebel against God’s design (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
Christians should know what sin looks like, and that should lead us to advocate against it, to promote something far greater. Speaking out about what we are against is part of caring about the good of our neighbors as we live as servants of Christ.
To be able to contend for what we are for, we must be clear concerning what we are against—and Scripture must define what we support and what we oppose.
In reality, no one is only known for what they are for. That has merely become a cultural bludgeon frequently used in an attempt to silence Christians speaking out in culture.
The world has no problem explaining their opposition to things, including biblical morality. Yet even deeming something an “injustice” is itself often a violation of the ideal to be known more for what you are for.
But advocating for justice leaves one with merely empty words if it isn’t accompanied with clarity concerning injustice. A person who is truly for human dignity will frequently show they are against abortion, racism, slavery, sexual abuse, and numerous other injustices in our world today.
Not being known for what we are against sounds nice on the surface, but for the Christian attempting to love God and their neighbors, it is not an option. The faithful Christian will be known for what they’re for and what they’re against, just like the Christ they seek to follow.
Dean is the founding and lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida and author of The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel.