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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Know When To Fold 'em

We were visiting a nearby campus and as we walked from the cafeteria back to the hall where we were spending the day observing a competition, my 19-year old friend began to sing, you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. I finished the phrase, know when to walk away, know when to run. Then I laughed and asked him how he knew the song. It's one I used to listen to more than 20 years ago, on a cassette tape of country songs my cousin in England had recorded for us.

Prince, a popular music icon, died this week. I didn't take much notice of it, as celebrities often die early due to overuse of drugs and other tragic things, but yesterday I decided to write a short Facebook post about it. I thought it ironic that the world was mourning this man who admitted himself that his music was raunchy and yet the world mocks or ignores the Prince of all princes. Within minutes, my post was being criticized by both Adventists and non-Adventists alike.

The ones who disagreed with the post felt that Prince had made a significant contribution to society and had united people, done significant charity work, and touched or even changed their lives. They believed that how Prince had changed their life had not affected their relationship with God and that the world could not revolve around one thing. They made snarky remarks, saying that he had converted from one fundamentalist religion (SDA) to another (JW). They felt that the post was a discredit to God or insinuated that the post was similar to another made by an Adventist when Robin Williams died.

I hate conflict and I have an equally strong sense of justice. I think everyone missed the point of the post. It was not my intent to say we shouldn't mourn people who die; it was my intent to remind those who read it that what is more important than making a big deal about someone who was a poor influence on society is that we realize there are thousands dying every day who don't know the Prince of all princes--Jesus.

As I replied to comments, I did so trying to find points of agreement but at the same time I found my inner sense of justice becoming riled up. Why is it that we have to be super sensitive to non-Christians so we don't offend them but when we have our opinions, they are allowed to demean us and they get offended if we try to defend the truth?

I am not familiar enough with Prince's music to identify themes and analyze whether his music upheld moral values or not, though it sounds like he led a conflicted life when I read the various reports from CNN, Washington Post, and others. I will be transparent and say yes, I listen to secular artists and I sing along to country or pop music. But when they die, am I going to dress up like them and take to the streets to mournfully sing their songs? No.

Perhaps the post reached the wrong audience. Perhaps those who read the post reacted because their values are different than mine. Perhaps asking why we aren't mourning the thousands who don't know Jesus made them too uncomfortable. It is easier to criticize than to take action. I know. I've done it many times.

I am also an analytical person who tries to learn from others' opinions. I sense when something clashes with my values, which was clearly so when people reacted to the post, and then I struggle with understanding whether I am correct in my conclusion or not. I think so, but I also think that we should all agree. This isn't realistic, though, because everyone has different opinions and values.

When do we defend Jesus? When are we simply to remain silent? Jesus said if those who were created to praise Him were to remain silent, the rocks would cry out in praise. He also said we should turn the other cheek. Sometimes it's difficult to reconcile Biblical principles with real life. I have not been blessed with the ability to reply in a way that challenges people to think or softly persuades them. I speak the truth as I understand it and then I confidently hold on to it.

Yet, there is always the nagging doubt. When I was enrolled in graduate studies, I had several mentors who encouraged me to speak and acknowledged my voice. I've lost that support system and now I'm back to questioning whether what I'm saying is right or whether I'm pushing others further away from Jesus by being bold. I don't want to be someone who is a stumbling block but I also don't want to be someone who was ashamed of her faith. Where is the balance?

Am I a Peter who boldly cut off someone's ear in defense of Jesus? Am I maiming others and damaging their fragile faith with a few words that were better left unsaid? Or am I a Peter who refused to acknowledge Jesus in the courtyard? Am I pretending I don't know what He really stands for because I'm afraid of offending someone and ruining any chances to be a silent witness?

Time is running out. Perhaps these small experiences are strengthening my faith and belief in God so that one day, when someone accuses me of knowing Jesus, I can say without a doubt that yes, I do and I believe in Him. I'm not afraid to answer for my faith. I'm just upset that others don't have a desire to share God's plan of salvation.

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