A Christian ‘Opposite’ Strategy for Making a Difference
Dominos pizza has taken up a strategy of doing the opposite of what Pizza Hut and Papa John’s are doing, according to Inc. Magazine.
I read that and I wondered whether Christianity could benefit from the same kind of thinking, in our efforts to bring Christ more into our culture. It ought to be so, considering all Jesus’ upside-down teaching: “the first shall be last,” “the one who would be great among you must be servant of all,” and others like it. The epistles, too, tell us to return blessing for evil. And the New Testament draws frequent contrasts between light and darkness, and the kingdoms of God or of this world.
All these are sound strategy in Christ. Is there anything else like it? Could thinking “opposite” open up new strategic ideas?
A Strategy for Believers?
The first thing that comes to mind is how we act on the internet. I see a lot of rudeness in nonbelievers online; a lot more than believers, at least where I spend time on the web.
I wish I could say I never see believers doing it. Here’s one place where we could resolve to do the opposite. Speak the truth, don’t be afraid to call sin and error what they are, but never forget there’s a human being on the other end of the exchange. Return blessing for evil. Treat them with the respect due another person created in God’s image.
Where the True Opposite Lies
Yet I find it’s hard to draw a sharp line marking off believers from unbelievers, in actual practice. I wish the distinction were more obvious. I wish it were more that way even in me. But as Alexander Solzhenitsyn told Harvard University years ago, the line separating good and evil cuts through every person’s heart.
Paul saw the opposites differently, too, in Galatians 5:19-23. It isn’t so much about who’s doing the works, it’s what’s behind the deeds we do:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Both believers and unbelievers can make the mistake of living out “the works of the flesh.” Compare the two lists, though: Which fruit looks better to you? Which life would you rather live?
Which Fruit Should We Grow?
I reviewed a Richard Dawkins book here on Wednesday. In that book, this atheist leader said Paul is “obsessed with sin.” I look at the comparison here, and I think No, Paul is “obsessed” only to the degree that he sees a difference between two kinds of fruit — the kind that leads to death both now and forever, versus the kind that generates life.
Most of Galatians is focused on, “how do we obey the law of God?” Here in this summary passage he’s telling us that if we live by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we’ll obey the law as a matter of course. The fruit of good deeds will grow on us as normally as grapes grow on grapevines.
And Christians have no business living out these fleshly deeds, anyway. As verse 24 of that passage tells us, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That side of us, which used to be the only life we had, is dead now, replaced by the good, attractive life of the Spirit of God, who lives in us and will lead us to good fruitfulness, if we’ll let Him. It’s dead, that is, but it can still rear up and go marauding in a kind of zombie mode.
So if there’s a good “opposites”strategy for believers, it might look like this: When you find yourself living out the “works of the flesh,” choose the opposite. Give up living in your old zombie mode. Turn back to the life of the Spirit of God in you.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.