Monday, March 9, 2015

Parable of the Trolls Explained

Actually, the story probably doesn't need much explaining.  The problem isn't recognizing trollish-ness, but in knowing what to do about it.  However, before we can address the trolls we see in our church pews, on the internet, or in our own hearts, we have to know what attitudes and misunderstandings cause troll-ish behavior in the first place. 


Troll sign, Westonbirt

In the parable, there were two sets of bridges.  One set led from the city to the places outside the King's domain.  Those living in the city are Christians and those living outside are not. So the bridges leading out of the city lead to unrepentant, rebellious sin. The bridges within the city only separate people with different opinions, different cultures, and different consciences.  One of the problems the trolls have is that they can't tell the difference between the bridges! 

In Paul's day, some of those opinions that separated people were whether or not to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols or celebrate certain Jewish holidays.  He addressed this concern in Romans 14:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.... For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:1-3,17).
Paul wants his readers to be righteous, to follow the commands of God, but he doesn't want them to argue over opinions, things that God leaves up to us. How do we know which is which?  The answer is simple, although the application isn't always so easy. 
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
We find out all about righteousness from the Bible, and it takes deep study on some issues to know whether they are issues of opinion or godliness.  I know mature Christians who disagree quite strongly on some of them.   To complicate matters, some issues can be both.  Take the much maligned issue of modesty.  We are commanded in Scripture to be modest (1 Timothy 2:9), but modesty looks different in different cultures.

There are other issues, but I'm afraid to name them specifically.  I bet you have some in mind just like I do, but I'm rather afraid of the trolls.  There is nothing wrong with warning others about the dangers of sin. There is not even anything wrong with a mature disagreement about which issues are ones of righteousness vs. ones of opinion.  The problem comes with our attitudes; that's the difference between the citizen soldiers and the trolls.  The former lovingly warn their brothers and sisters about the dangers of sin.  The latter call names, judge hearts, and scare people away from the love of the Savior.  I have left at least three different church related discussion groups on Facebook due to personal attacks, either on myself or on others, when an honest question was asked.  If a mature Christian is nervous about bearing the brunt of this kind of behavior, how do you think a baby Christian or a seeker feels when they see and hear such vituperation coming from the saints who are supposed to love one another and love their enemies? 

Such behavior most certainly causes disunity, which threatens the mission that Jesus gave to us.  When He prayed for unity for his believers, it was partly for the purpose of spreading his truth. 
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21).
In Paul's great call for unity, he urges, humility, patience, meekness, love, peace, truth and love.  Oops, I said love twice. That's okay, Paul did too!
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace... speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1-3, 15-16).

Did you catch that?  When each part is working properly, Jesus makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  When they don't work properly, when they argue over opinions and treat each other badly, the body will be stunted.  Not only will it not grow in number (because seekers are scared away), but it will not grow in love either.
Now we recognize the problems trolls have.  So how do we deal with them?  Thus far, my attitude has been one of avoidance, but in a way, that doesn't make me any better than they are.  Next week, Helene will share how to care for the trolls in your life.

Melissa

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