I think it’s fair to say that we live in an age in which we are encouraged to be tolerant. It is considered unloving and bigoted to speak out against others’ actions and beliefs. Everybody has a right to behave in the way in which he or she believes is best and no one has any right to question anyone else’s decisions or actions.
This thinking has infiltrated the church as much as it has any other area of life. A. W. Tozer recognised this nearly a century ago when he wrote,
We present-day Christians have been misled and brainwashed, at least in a general way, by a generation of soft, pussycat preachers. They would have us believe that to be good Christians we must be able to purr softly and accept everything that comes along with Christian tolerance and understanding. Such ministers never mention words like zeal and conviction and commitment. They avoid phrases like “standing for the truth.”
David would have none of this “pussycat preaching.” In Psalm 101, he writes strongly against evildoers and their evil deeds and expresses his commitment to strongly oppose evil. “I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me,” he writes (v. 3). Promising to distance himself from perversity and evil (v. 4), he commits to destroying those who secretly slander their neighbour and to not tolerate those who wallow in arrogance (v. 5). He will not allow deceit to find a place at his table (v. 7) and ultimate concludes, “Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD” (v. 8). We should emulate David’s passion to actively oppose evil.
Christians can sometimes be tempted to theoretically oppose evil without actually speaking against it. Consider, for example, those who say that they are personally opposed to abortion but believe that everybody needs to make their own decisions in that regard. To not actively speak against evil is to tacitly approve it. Psalm 101 exhorts us to actively and passionately stand against evil in our society.
We must remember that the church is not called to be nice. Steering clear of controversy is not an indispensable part of the Great Commission. Faithful gospel preaching requires that we call people to repent, which requires that we speak against the evils in which people are involved. Modelling godliness is one aspect of opposing evil, but it cannot stop there.
Consider the example of Jesus, who both modelled godliness and actively opposed evil. He was not afraid to call out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He was willing to openly oppose the abuses at the temple by twice driving out the moneychangers. A quest for niceness was not the driving force of his life and ministry.
As Christians, we have plenty of opportunity to stand against wickedness. It requires wisdom to know the best way to oppose evil but we must ensure that we do not shy away from opportunities to do so. Opposition may look like protest action. It may look like speaking up to silence gossip when it arises within a group of friends. It may mean using social media platforms as an opportunity to speak truth and oppose evil. It may mean opening your mouth for those who cannot defend themselves (Proverbs 31:8–9). Whatever it looks like in your context, don’t allow yourself to be bullied into silence in the name of tolerance. Instead, even as you sing of steadfast love and justice (v. 1) and refuse to set worthlessness before your eyes (v. 3), do what you can to oppose evil in the name of the Lord.