A member of my small group mentioned a challenge within Christian spheres seen on social media. Let me preface this by saying, if maintaining a social media presence is a source of anxiety, distress, or depression for you, know that it has been intentionally configured to release the same dopaminergic euphoria to the brain as illegal drug use. And then discern whether or not you may have an addictive personality resulting in an unhealthy attachment to social media and the “feel goods” it gives.
Context is king, or so the saying goes. And the problem I can’t reconcile in my mind with what was said in small group is one of context. The term presented was in the derisive sense, “weaponized faith.” And any time I hear some oxymoronic term like that, red flags fly and bells go off. Faith weaponized? How? In what way? Any time broad generalization and sweeping terms are used without the courtesy of explanation, I am automatically suspect of pseudointellectialism. If one cannot offer specific context for the term or concept beyond surface level, if it is not worth discussing in clarity and in light of Scripture, then it is not worth discussing. If however, something is causing significant distress or challenge to one’s faith walk, it MUST be discussed with context and clarity, in light of Scripture, because it’s causing derailment of one’s faith.
To break down the incoherence of the term, let’s look at each part individually.
Weaponize: (v) 1. To adapt for use as a weapon of war 2. To exploit for the purpose of attacking a group or person.
Faith: (n) 1) Belief in God or in a set of religious principles 2) allegiance or duty to a person or cause 3) confident trust in someone or something.
Therefore to “weaponize faith” (specifically the Christian faith) would be to take devout trust in Yahweh God, the wholehearted allegiance to Him and His Word in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, and to exploit it for the purpose of attacking a group or a person. One may have memories of Westboro Baptist come to mind.
But the fact is, those two concepts are incoherent. And here is why.
From the perspective of the Non-Christian
The Christian faith is inherently hostile to their lifestyle, because their lifestyle is contrary to the exclusivity of Christ. That is abrasive to the sinner. Christ is abrasive to the sinner.
“I am The Way, The Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
How many people like to be told they’re wrong? How many rejoice in being told they’re headed for destruction? Not many, if any at all these days. People want a benign, grampa God; lovingly detached from His alter-ego of the Old Testament, full of firey wrath and angry justice. Let me tell you something… God didn’t change. He is immutable. He is also Holy, Righteous, Faithful, Merciful, Compassionate, Gracious, Long-suffering, and far gentler than we deserve.
Throughout the Old Testament, destruction never came without warning. God was never hatefully opposed to His creation. He was utterly insensed at the debauchery and defilement with which His creation was choosing to live. Like a parent who leaves their children in a room for 2 minutes to go to the bathroom only to return to cocoa powder on the floor, coconut oil in the carpet, and oily chocolate foot and hand prints on every level surface… Not speaking from experience or anything…
God left us to steward His creation and fairly well immediately, we messed it all up. Every. Single. Time. Even the faithful patriarchs lied, cheated, murdered, lusted, fornicated (and not without consequence either)… Because they are sinful at their core; there’s a warring between the flesh and the spirit. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The difference between the faithful and the unbeliever is that the faithful recognize their sin, repent of it, and return to God with humility and godly sorrow. Because by definition, the faithful have unwavering confidence and trust in God, despite their mistakes and shortcomings, and they do not abuse His grace by continuing to walk in sin. Rather, when confronted about their sin, or better still the holiness of God, they respond as the prophet Isaiah did, “Then I said: Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Armies.”
From the perspective of the lost, having been there myself, confrontation about sin in one’s life does feel like being attacked. That’s not weaponizing faith-, it’s telling the Truth. It’s called the “Sword of the Spirit” not the “feather duster of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit doesn’t merely want to dust you off a little at surface level; He wants to completely dissect you, separating joint from marrow and surgically remove every sinful thing, severing away anything displeasing to the Lord of Hosts. We can expect that process to be painful. No one ever promised it would be pain-free. But we are promised that Christ is our healing balm, and that he will bind up our wounds.
From the perspective of the Christian
As a Christian, I hold radical views that any fellow believer who would happen to see me acting inconsistently with the faith I profess has every right and authority to call me out for it. Everyone I have ever spoken with on the subject maintains that one must have a personal relationship with someone before they point out any hypocrisy or active sin in someone’s life. That is hogwash. There is no way for us as Christians to maintain personal relationships with every other believer in the world. Jesus did not first ask the woman at the well over for dinner to get to know her for a few months so she would trust Him before he revealed that He knew her sinful lifestyle. No. He made Himself known to her, communicated His standard, and revealed the inconsistency in her own life, and called her to leave that in favor of faithfulness to Him as Messiah. And she became a witness to her whole community. We do see her attempt to change the subject a little, likely out of discomfort and maybe she was even trying to see if Jesus actually could back up His assertions. He could. He did. And He calls us to the same. However, In Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to be of one mind- the mind of Christ. That is the ONLY sense in which unity exists in this world- it is unity within the body of Christ by (and only by) the power of the Holy Spirit. This “coexist” mentality of global unity is satanic garbage. It is heretical. And I won’t apologize for saying so.
Our enemy is not flesh and blood. We do not wage war the way the world does, by projecting our sins or anger on to others, vitriolic social media posts, or anything of that sort. But we DO stand on truth. And The Truth will be opposed. Calling Christians to accountability is not weaponizing faith- it’s practicing faith. It’s saying boldly and publicly, “I believe God’s Word is True, I have confidence and allegiance to Jesus Christ, and I expect all those called by His Name, who take on the name ‘Christian’ to hold to the same standards as set forth by Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible.”
On Gentleness and Respect
Gentleness does not mean apathy. Gentleness does not mean passivity.
Gentleness: (n) Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love. [biblestudy tools.com/dictionary]
Gentleness does not accuse, Satan accuses. Gentleness points to the Truth of Jesus Christ with humility and respect, and heartfelt concern for people.
Jesus was the perfect picture of gentleness and boldness. In Him, the two were married seamlessly and practiced perfectly.
Jesus was also meek. Meek does not mean weak. Meekness in Jesus was absolute power under absolute control.
Jesus never said anything He regretted, he never spoke an unkind word. He did however speak plenty of true words that led to the pharisaical desire to murder Him. But He also used wisdom and discernment to know not only what to say, but when and how to say it. Were people still offended? Yes. Why? We already discussed the fact that sin is hostile to Christ. The Pharisees, unwilling to repent in humility as Isaiah had, harbored vitriolic anger and plotted murder.
And herein lies the inherent contradiction of “weaponized faith.” When the goal of the rhetoric is to steal, kill, or destroy, it is not rhetoric of faith; it is satanic. And you don’t have to worry about that; God’s already told us His plan for Satan’s future. Faith– true, saving faith in Jesus Christ– cannot be weaponized against anyone or anything than Satan and the evil in this world. In that regard, the Gospel slays our ancient enemy and the wickedness of those who assent to his evil schemes. The end goal of the rhetoric of faith is to call to repentance, accountability, and consistency of life lived with faith professed. It is to see Christ Jesus glorified, to see people saved, not debased.
If you see something that appears to be “weaponized faith,” stop and ask yourself these 5 questions:
- Is it true and consistent with God’s Word?
- Is Jesus Christ glorified in it?
- Is this feeling of victimisation I feel coming from a place of conviction over what was said?
- am I pulling the words out of the context of the author’s intent?
- Am I taking personally something that was meant to be taken generally, and if so, why?
The Gospel should make us feel small. We are small. But we are also inconceivably loved. God is great, magnificent, holy, righteous, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and immutable. Compared to Him, we are but dust. But the Gospel should also remind us that in Christ is our strength; in Him we are more than conquerors over sin, hell, and death. And like Paul, we should boast all the more in our weakness, because in our weakness, Christ is magnified.