A certain tweet caught my attention earlier today. It was quoting the famous theologian, John Calvin, “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” This bugs me.
It bugs me because it implies that part of the Christian’s duty is to defend God – to pick apart “liberal” arguments about who Jesus was/is, the truth of Scripture, or Christianity’s exclusivity. I will say that part of our duty is to be critical of not only the arguments of those who disagree with us, but our own as well. But this does not mean we must constantly go on the defensive mode every time our beloved doctrine (whichever one that may be) is questioned.
It’s not a new thing to say that as followers of Christ our lives ought to reflect His; it’s what it means to be Christian (“little Christ”). And yet I find it quite strange that many of my fellow Christians (and oftentimes myself) aggressively defend our “close-handed” beliefs (beliefs that we must not let go of). Jesus didn’t play the religious game and that’s why He was able to win arguments in His encounters with the religious elite. If life is a game, He changed the way it was played back to the way it was supposed to be played all along.
What did He have in His life that we’re lacking? Well, besides a direct line to God’s office, He had what Scripture calls wisdom. He saw through the arguments of His religious peers not because He was like some Harvey Spector on steroids, but because He constantly saw the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of life, our little religious bickering about how perfect the Scriptures are or aren’t, about how the Trinity works or doesn’t work, or about how God will only admit into heaven those who have faithfully believed in Jesus or if He’ll make some exceptions – none of it matters.
What matters is the bigger picture: Knowing and sharing the love of God. In Luke’s gospel, a rich ruler tells Jesus that he had upheld the commandments of God since he was a kid. But what does Jesus tell him? “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” (Luke 18:22). Jesus told this rich man – and all those within earshot – that striving simply to live out the commandments of God, to live out the law, was not enough; it is to live as justly, graciously, and generously as God. Simply, it’s to live like Him.
I am not saying we are all like the rich ruler who had everything and yet lacked what was most important. But I am saying we run the risk of missing the point – missing the bigger picture of life – when we “bark” to defend our Master. I believe God created man and not the other way around – so to describe God in a “What we would do” manner is to degrade Him. And last time I checked, our Master was flogged, stripped, and crucified and His “faithful” dogs ran with their tails between their legs.
God is a big guy who can clearly defend Himself if He wants to. What often troubles our inner religious selves is that God doesn’t want to defend Himself; He wants to defend us. Why else would He sacrifice His own Son – His own spittin’ image – on the cross?
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” – John 15:13