Dr. R.C. Sproul gives the following illustration. “A few years ago one of the leading golfers on the professional tour was invited to play in a foursome with Gerald Ford, then president of the United States, Jack Nicklaus, and Billy Graham. The golfer was especially in awe of playing with Ford and Billy Graham (he had played frequently with Nicklaus before).
“After the round of golf was finished, one of the other pros came up to the golfer and asked, ‘Hey, what was it like playing with the President and with Billy Graham?’ The pro unleashed a torrent of cursing, and in a disgusted manner said, ‘I don’t need Billy Graham stuffing religion down my throat.’ With that he turned on his heel and stormed off, heading for the practice tee.
“His friend followed the angry pro to the practice tee. The pro took out his driver and started to beat out balls in fury. His neck was crimson and it looked like steam was coming from his ears. His friend said nothing. He sat on a bench and watched.
“After a few minutes the anger of the pro was spent. He settled down. His friend said quietly, ‘Was Billy a little rough on you out there?’ The pro heaved an embarrassed sigh and said, ‘No, he didn’t even mention religion. I just had a bad round.’”
“Astonishing. Billy Graham had said not a word about God, Jesus or religion, yet the pro had stormed away after the game accusing Billy of trying to ram religion down his throat. How can we explain this? It’s really not difficult.
“Billy Graham didn’t have to say a word; he didn’t have to give a single sideward glance to make the pro feel uncomfortable. Billy Graham is so identified with religion, so associated with the things of God, that his very presence is enough to smother the wicked man who flees when no man pursues.
“Luther was right, the pagan does tremble at the rustling of a leaf when He feels the hound of heaven breathing down his neck. He feels crowded by holiness even if it is only made present by an imperfect, partially sanctified human vessel.”
Luther, referring to the wicked man fleeing at the sound of a rustling leaf, had Proverbs 28:1 in mind as he penned those words. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked man flees though no one pursues.”
Those of us who are Christ followers know what it is to have people take instant offense the minute they learn that we are Christians. They start calling us all sorts of names, accusing us of trying to judge them, or trying to pretend that we are better than them; the most common epitaph being thrown our way is, “You’re nothing but a hypocrite.”
Unfortunately, there are times when we deserve it. We who are Christ followers don’t always get it right and the church has a long history of sometimes majoring on minors and in the process obscuring our message.
So frankly, I find it very understandable when some non-Christian levels the charge at some Christians who somehow think that it is their duty to critique the behavior and beliefs of the non-believer. (Christian see 1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
I find many times that it is not the Christ follower who has done something or said something to illicit an attack, rather it is the conscience of the person who launches the attack. Like the pro above, we don’t have to say a word. Sometimes it is our mere presence that offends those who are self-convicted.
The tale-tell sign of that personal conviction being expressed in a vehement attack is that the attacker loses all reason and simply starts to defend his or her indefensible view by name-calling. In logic, we called it the attack on the man.
When a person begins to assail the character of another, you can be certain the attacker is struggling with that which he knows pollutes his own character.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway Website at www.gatewaycommunity.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.