Don’t Be Tone Deaf

turned off black television

Our small group at church has been meeting outside in the morning shade of some large pine trees by the church parking lot on Sunday mornings. It’s been really nice for an informal time to share about life. On Sundays we’ve been in town this summer, we’ve really enjoyed it.

A couple weeks ago someone was sharing a story from their previous week and provided what I believe to be a profound insight into how we should think about our Christian witness. A couple in our class regularly watch Korean comedy/dramas— with their daughters who are from Korea—to help them maintain their language fluency. He admitted he and his wife have grown to enjoy the shows that he described as the moral equivalent to “Leave it to Beaver.”

He shared about an evening he had alone when he decided to watch the show with the English voice-overs turned on. Though the words were right, he said, there was no emotion. The whole feel of the show was off, he explained. Imagine that, you can say all the right words and still get it wrong.

How might reflection on this benefit our public witness? We can say all the right things. We can be completely orthodox. We can hit every theological nuance with perfect accuracy. But if we lack love, we will be, as Paul says, nothing more than a clanging symbol. Let’s say the right things, of course. But let’s not be tone deaf. Let’s speak the truth in love in the context of caring relationships.

There are some today who claim the name of Christ and yet speak with such anger, accusation, slander, cynicism, and a complete lack of joy-filled and gospel-infused optimism and encouragement. I was recently asked my thoughts about angry Christians online while participating in a conference Q&A session. The words that came out of my mouth kind of surprised me, because, while I may have thoughts this before, I don’t know if I’ve said it out loud. “What would help them,” I said, “would be to have some dear friendships with people who are far from God, with whom they want to share the gospel, who are following them online.”

I think that about gets it. Our care and intentionality bespeak both our heart and our hope. If we don’t seem to care how people receive what we say, well, we probably don’t really care how people receive what we say. We can call that a whole lot of things. But we certainly can’t call it Christlike.