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FIRST-PERSON: Sometimes our yes means no

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I noticed a peculiar headline in the local paper a few weeks ago when I was visiting Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. It was an interesting twist on a familiar phrase. It read: “In politics, sometimes ‘no’ means ‘yes.'”

Here’s the gist of it. Several Democratic California representatives and senators voted against a federal spending bill that eventually passed. However, their voting positions didn’t prevent them from trumpeting to their constituents that they’d won funding for the voters of Marin County of local flood control projects, roads, buses and schools.

I just shook my head. Their actions are another example of the hypocrisy played out in our political process. We knock politicians — with some justification — for saying one thing and doing another. Many tweak the truth for self-serving purposes and are more interested in winning re-election than in doing what’s best for their constituents.

As I mentally raked these politicians over the coals, a thought shot through my mind and abruptly turned my attention a little closer to home. Doubletalk isn’t confined to the political arena; it’s highly visible in our conservative, evangelical world.

Think about the staunch convictions that are often proclaimed at conferences, in pulpits, newsletters, magazines and elsewhere that consistently challenge us to stand by, stand on, stand under and stand for the Word of God. We preach Jesus’ command to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). 1 Peter 1:22-23 confirms this command: “By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again.” In saying, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), Jesus clearly taught us that we are to sacrifice ourselves for each other. The apostle Paul told us to “serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13).

Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31-32 are particularly sobering: “All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” The author of Hebrews staggers me when he writes of our relationship with each other: “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Christians are supposed to bring out the best in each other, but sadly the opposite is often true. Scratch the surface and there is often a skewed sense of reality comparable to that of popular culture.

Partisanship and hostility are more prevalent here than in the political arena. We move beyond a healthy debate of issues to words spoken in haste and tinged with personal resentment. Only occasionally is that resentment confessed and removed. Why is it that politicians can fight like cats and dogs on the floor of the capitol then cordially have meals together to discuss matters of mutual concern?

We seldom do that! Our affirmation of Christian teachings about fellowship, forgiveness, confession, right attitudes, supporting one another-loving one another is seemingly all talk with no substance. With our prevailing attitudes toward each other, it’s no wonder there is such turmoil within our Christian relationships.

I’m afraid that our “yes” to the letter of God’s Word really is a clear “no” to the spirit of obeying it. Of course, many of us standing at the podiums of our churches learned long ago that the preaching was for the people in the pews and not for us, didn’t we?

Politicians may say “no” when they really mean “yes,” but let’s determine to live out Jesus’ words: “Let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). God help us to not let our “yes” really mean “no.”
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • James T. Draper Jr.