How do you respond to those who hold to extremists views?
Avoid Hair Triggers
Doesn’t it seem that people have more of a trigger finger these days? What I mean is that there are short fuses where it only takes a tiny spark to set someone off. I’ve noticed this in the last 10 years or so. What I sense is that people are down to their last nerve, and may we never be the one to step on it! It’s really hard to not get in someone’s way in this world, unless you are retired or work at home. Driving to work, and even church, there are people sometimes on my bumper, even though I’m doing the speed limit. Rather than get mad, which I’ve done before, I simply slow down so he or she can pass me safely. When he or she begins to pass me, I slow down and tap my brakes to let him or her know that I’m slowing down to let you pass more safely. That’s the same response to extremists groups, and I would add, extremist people we meet. If you know what gets people mad, it’s best to avoid it. Some people have certain “buttons” you can push, so in a sometimes extreme world, be the calm in the storm and this may douse the flame of someone’s extremist’s views.
Walking on Eggshells
Being a husband for so many years now, I have said the wrong thing often enough that it’s impossible to count them all by now, but even the Bible says there “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccl 3:7), and it helps not to get these two backwards. A good example was at a Bible study when someone was using a Bible verse to prove a point. Even though the quote was correct, the verse was not, and I knew that…but I decided to keep my mouth shut. It wasn’t that important. The person was right on point, so I said nothing. Only later, in private, did I tell them that they were exactly right, but their verse was just a bit off. If I had brought that up at the Bible study in front of everybody, it might have embarrassed them, and their point would have been lost. We don’t have to walk on eggshells in society or at Bible studies or any other place we go, but it’s sometimes better to say nothing than to say something that might hurt someone.
Fighting Hate with Love
Jesus had the best way to fight hate and it was about as radical of a teaching as there was. His teachings, in fact, were contrary to the local religious leaders of His day. Jesus compared what was taught of old to what is the Kingdom of God. For example, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:27-29). That response works for Christian persecution at work, for persecution in public, for relationship problems, as well as extremists groups. We are to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31), but this doesn’t mean if they do bad things to them we get them back! No, we love those who hate us; we pray for those who mistreat us; we bless those who curse us; and then we leave the rest up to God. They may be so confused that they think about their relationship with God for the very first time. Pray that extremists that God changes their heart, and they repent and believe. He can do that (Prov 21:1)!
God gives us what we don’t deserve. The Apostle Paul writes that it was “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). This shows how “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Would you die for an ungodly person or one that was wicked? How about an enemy? Think about this. Even “while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life” (Rom 5:10)! The way to respond to extreme hate is with extreme love. A soft answer will turn a lot of wrath away…maybe not all of it, but it’s worse than fueling the fire by getting vocal. Just like we defeat fear with faith, let us defeat hate with love, loving the undeserving, ungodly, wicked, enemies of God…as some of such were we!
What a beautiful way to share the gospel. Even those who hold extremists views can be saved. Think about Saul becoming Paul. I remember Jesus had a few “extremists” come against Him. I believe we can be salt and light in this dark and decaying world by avoiding people’s hair triggers and esteeming them better than ourselves (Phil 2:3-4). There are times in which we must speak up, but there are other times when it’s best to be silent. I haven’t always figured out when to do each, and it’s gotten me in trouble. What I have learned is only God can change their heart, but He might use us as a means to do so by giving extremists what they don’t’ deserve, just as God gave us what we didn’t deserve. Recognizing that we too were headed down the same broad path of destruction should make us more passionate about rescuing those who are headed down that path right now. There are no guarantees of tomorrow. Today may be the last time you get a chance to talk to that friend. Today is a very good day for salvation (2nd Cor 6:2).