It’s a classic storytelling device– even in times of war, there’s a line the good guy won’t cross. Bad guys will construct an elaborate tank that will slowly fill with water and drown the hero; when he finally breaks free of the trap, the hero hands the villain over to the authorities rather than sticking him in the death machine. There are some things a good guy just doesn’t do.
That’s why the world was outraged by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq; the U.S. had subjected its prisoners to horrors only perpetrated by bad guys. How you fight tells a lot about your character.
So it’s ironic, then, that followers of Jesus can be some of the worst fighters of all. Observe any online discussion or theological debate among believers and you’ll see a race to the extremes: moral outrage, demonization of the opposing side, slander, lies. We’re often the first to cross the lines between civil discourse and outright verbal abuse.
How we fight says a lot about our God. To a world that’s watching our ongoing wars of words, God is a manipulative, back-stabbing liar who deliberately takes people’s words out of context and compares everyone to Hitler. When those who call themselves God’s people are so quick to reach for the verbal nuke button, it makes sense that others might see Him as less than gracious.
I’m not saying we should agree with everyone, or that there’s nothing worth fighting for. It’s a simple question of tactics for disagreement: what is the line we’re not willing to cross (even if it means losing an argument, or looking weak) in order that people might see Jesus in us?