Visible Grace in Disagreements: Willingness to Confront vs. Eagerness for Controversy

by Caleb Batchelor May 6, 2024

Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from Visible Grace: Seeing the Church the Way Jesus Does by Caleb Batchelor. The book is available now from 10Publishing.

Paul wasn’t afraid to address sin. Just ask the Corinthians. But what first grabbed Paul’s attention when he thought about that rowdy, discriminatory congregation in Corinth? God’s visible grace (1 Cor. 1:4–9). He was willing to confront, but he was not eager for controversy. There’s a difference.

It’s all about your posture. Do you find yourself on the edge of your seat, ready to engage in the latest controversy? Or is your preference to celebrate God’s grace, ready to confront only when necessary (Prov. 15:18; 17:19)?

Jude had a preference:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

He wanted to agree, celebrating God’s grace in their “common salvation.” But he needed to confront those “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).[1]

Like Jude, we shouldn’t prefer controversy—especially when it’s simply to be entertained.

I feel contempt for those who attended the gladiator games, where another’s ruin was their entertainment, where a father’s wounds were their source of glee. But then I remember a talk I heard in middle school, where the speaker compared our fascination with others’ suffering to the ancient appeal of the gladiator games. It’s convicting to think of how many times I’ve laughed about another’s sin, joked about a pastor’s blunder, and made sport of a church’s questionable ministry practice. As I scroll down my Twitter feed, I descend the steps of a modern coliseum, where another’s moral ruin is my entertainment, where a father’s spiritual wounds are my source of glee.

If you want to be countercultural today, don’t let a pastor’s moral failing or a stupid controversy fascinate you (1 Cor. 13:6; 2 Tim. 2:23). Pray. Grieve. Ask for grace. Confront when necessary. But don’t feed your curiosity with others’ sins. As the Puritan Richard Sibbes so helpfully points out, “Men must not be too curious into prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than unto that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume.”[2]

Aren’t you glad that Jesus feels burdened by your indwelling sin, rather than entertained by it? I’m thankful that my weaknesses elicit his warm compassion, not a witty Tweet.[3] Don’t you want more of that heart toward your brothers and sisters in Christ? When they disagree with you, do you “welcome [them] as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7; cf. Rom. 14:1–4)? When they walk in and everyone moves to the other side of the lunchroom, do you sit down next to them? When they don’t deserve love, do you show them grace?

Since you have the Spirit of Christ, you already have that inclination. The Spirit of your gentle and lowly Savior abides in you. And the result is gentleness.

__________

Citations

[1] Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On (Minneapolis: The Gospel Coalition, 2020), p. 94.

[2] Richard Sibbes, Works, 1:57.

[3] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), pp. 69, 71.

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