Communicating God’s truth calls for wisdom

Curtis Shelburne

I still remember, and cringe when I remember, the TV interview I saw years ago featuring a Scripture-quoting preacher or church leader trying to defend the well-meaning but largely indefensible actions his church had taken which had landed them in court.

I felt bad for the guy. He’d not done anything needlessly provocative like burning the Koran to pander to cameras and get attention. He’d not done anything cruel and utterly insane like protesting homosexuality by demonstrating at the funerals of fallen soldiers. He’d not even hatched any crazy end of the world theories and promoted such idiocy by spending big bucks on billboards. The media attention he was getting was the last thing he wanted, and he found himself sweating bullets in front of the camera.

I really did feel bad for him, which made me feel even more guilty for finally hoping that for the good of the faith the poor guy would choke or gag or just lock down and be mercifully quiet.

You see, the guy was stammering along, but he couldn’t just talk. He couldn’t just try to make his case. He felt that he had to quote Scripture, and lots of it, and quoting Scripture is what he did for paragraphs on end with barely a breath between them.

I didn’t blame him for being nervous as a cat. He had a poor case to make. Neither the court’s decision nor logic was on his side. No matter how much good his church had probably done over the years, they’d made one very ill-advised decision, landed in court, and roll the tape! To the news media, the good the church had done was not news. It was “Dog Bites Man” stuff. But the present teapot tempest was “Man Bites Dog” headline fodder, and they were eating it up.

The poor guy in the lights looked like he was being eaten alive. And he just kept on quoting Scripture to try to prove his case to people who wouldn’t have known a passage from Second Timothy from a paragraph from a weed-eater manual. He might just as well have been quoting Scripture from the original language. He was not communicating at all.

It was hard to watch.

He lost his case, and probably deserved to, even though he may well have been a fine and godly man. I love and revere Scripture, but I surely would like to have heard at least a Christ-honoring attempt at a capable defense in plain English.

Speaking to the crowd gathered centuries ago on Mars Hill in Athens, the Apostle Paul was more than able to quote most of the Hebrew Bible; instead, he began his “sermon” to the crowd by saying, “One of your own poets has said . . .” It was a good move, and folks listened.

Of course, the great apostle had the best of “cases” to make, and knowing the Lord of Scripture intimately, he knew both its deepest Truth and when the time was right, or not, to quote its words.