“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
There are calls to Christ-like behavior all over the New Testament. We see them in all kinds of different contexts. And most of them seem to offer little more reason for this aim than that it is right and honoring of God. Sometimes they focus on the benefit such behavior will bring to us. But there are times I’ve been left wondering: What else is there? Is there a reason to put so much effort and energy into this beyond the fact that it is right?
Paul offers us one here. We should pursue all these good things so that our opponents’ quivers are empty. The fact is, as followers of Jesus, we are going to have enemies. We are going to have people who hate us and oppose us because of who we are. They are servants of the enemy whether they realize it or not and so they oppose us because we are not serving their master. They recognize that we are not of this world and to them we are illegal aliens threatening the very existence of their kingdom.
These kinds of folks will look for any opportunity they can find to tear us down. Even the smallest chink in our armor will be exploited to its fullest extent. They will go after us for our message and our beliefs if they must, but they would much prefer to go after our character.
When they are stuck with just our message and beliefs to criticize they will argue that these things make us crazy and evil people whether they have evidence of such charges or not. Not long ago, two different Christian individuals nominated to serve in two different government positions were openly attacked by Democratic Senators for their beliefs. In both cases these individuals with no obvious skeletons and sterling credentials were all but told outright that they were not qualified to serve solely on the basis of their orthodox Christian beliefs; beliefs which were in one case not even remotely relevant to the position in question. Besides being brazenly unconstitutional, this criticism is a perfect example of how servants of the kingdom of this world in whatever form they happen to take will attack servants of the kingdom of God.
As unfair as these attacks were and are, though, do you know what makes them worse? When we have character flaws that give them justification. Prior to this our critics merely suggest (loudly sometimes) that we are evil because of our beliefs. If we have character issues they jump up and down screaming with delight, “See! I told you so!!” Recently, a Republican Congressman who boasted of his Christian faith and his opposition to abortion was forced to resign because news came to light that he had not only had an affair with a married woman, but that the two of them had gotten her pregnant and he had encouraged her to seek an abortion in order to cover up their sin.
We can’t put arrows in the quivers of our enemies. They will use them to shoot us down. They will use them to shoot at our brothers and sisters who are innocent of such failings too. They’ll say, “If that one is bad, then so is this one…and that other one too.” Instead, we must live lives of such grace and goodness that people who would attack our character would themselves be made to look bad because of how obviously wrong they are. This is the way of Jesus and we need to follow it well. Otherwise, how are we going to convince anyone else to follow it with us?