19Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-25)

I occasionally wander over to episcopalcafe.com to see what those with whom I typically disagree are saying.  I typically find the theological posts a mixed bag, but perhaps worth engaging in a conversation.  Then I begin to read the comments, and after a good many “hurray for how enlightened we are” posts, I decide a reply would be ill-advised.  Their blog’s purpose is intended as a support for likeminded individuals, not as an open forum for debate.  And while I might have a valid point to consider, that is not the forum in which to present it.  To do so would weaken any potential witness I might have in a different venue and to essentially destroy any credibility that I genuinely care for them.

Then I wander over to covenant-communion.net and interact with those who with whom I tend to have more in common, and we engage in lively debate.  Occasionally we step on each other’s toes, but most of us go out of our way to ensure what we are saying is presented winsomely, yet not skirting around the passion we have for our convictions.  The blog is intended to be an open forum, but has occasionally attracted a few people who have been ill-equipped in reining in their more caustic comments, and sadly a few people who may have once been open to hearing opposing viewpoints have disengaged.  So the system is imperfect, but the intentionality is there.

Then I wander over to standfirminfaith.com, where I once contributed comments some years ago, but have since found to be more of a fan club for those who want to stick it to TEC than as a source of news and pointed commentary and debate over how best to address the current crisis in the Anglican Communion and its fall-out as it once was intended.  For me to defend staying in TEC, but to do so without some hidden agenda to buck against the system in ways that I find to be counterproductive to the Gospel, is not really welcome in that environment.

Evangelicals have convictions about Scripture, Christ, evangelism, and truth that demand a hearing.  Yet we are also instructed to share those convictions in ways that demonstrate those convictions have indeed changed us in demosntrable ways.  This past Sunday’s lectionary reading in Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit reminds us that there is a standard of Christian character that God is producing in us.  We admire prophets and preachers who warn the world of sin and its just consequences.  But we must remember that Jesus is not in the business of breaking bruised reeds, either.  So to show an awareness of one’s words and contexts for sharing the truth of the Gospel is mandatory if we hope to gain a hearing, whether in the Church or the world at large.  It also shows that not only our minds are being sanctified by the truth of the Word in our beliefs, but that our hearts are being sanctified as seen by the fruit of the Spirit in our actions and words.

Gracious Father, grant by your Spirit that we may always show charity in our conversations about the truth of your sacrificial love to us through Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

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