It’s time we address Charmin-soft Christianity. E. Stanley Jones translated the Greek word employed by Paul, malakois, which means “effeminate”, as being “soft” – “…the soft shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9). Have you ever seen a softer generation? We sit on soft pews, guzzle down soft drinks, tune in to easy-listening soft-rock and sleep on pillow-top soft mattresses. In ministry and business most now prefer the soft-sell approach. The media soft-pedals around issues with softball questions and backpedals whenever some congressman displays the least annoyance. Moderates may call it diplomacy but the WWII generation would have labeled it “soft”.
“Effeminate” then describes the sissy-fication of modern society. Tons of software has created tons of soft people. The prophet said the “mighty warriors no longer fight…they have become as women” (Jeremiah 51:30). Gender identity crisis, I suppose. The New Life Version translates malakois as “men who act like women”. I’m not saying men should have grease under their nails from working on their muscle cars. The text has a much broader application. The Greek word is translated in its two other N.T. uses as “soft”, meaning “soft to the touch”, cushioned or weak. Jesus declared that John the Baptist had not come dressed in king’s clothing or “soft raiment” (Matthew 11:8, Luke 7:25). He wore a camel hide mantle not Botany 500 silk suits and ate locusts and wild honey instead of pasta and filet Mignon. He lived in a transitional time between Law and Grace, eating the locusts of Law and the honey of Grace, but most preachers today drip only with honey.
So being “soft” isn’t determined by how much a man can bench-press. Journalists give softball interviews. Judges go soft on hardened criminals. The goal in corporate America is the cushy, soft job with a tenured paycheck, short on hours and long on perks. Soft Soap is a big seller today, whereas Dad’s generation sandpapered their skin with pumice. I agree with Solomon that a “soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1). He also said that “soft speech can break bones” (Prov 25:15). Honey solves more disputes than vinegar. Gentleness has its place but that place is not in drafting foreign policy. It has no place in negotiating prisoner swaps. The guy upstream from the waterfall doesn’t need a gentle warning. Today’s pulpit appeases sin instead of opposes sin. Pressure to fill pews has churches accommodating the world system rather than reproving it.
But there is a movement underway now that espouses a return to “hardcore” church. Such believers can’t embrace touchy-feely Charmin-soft Christianity. This new breed understands their job description as the “salt of the earth”, not the sugar of the earth. Salt may sting at first but it also heals and retards corruption.
The soft approach refuses to classify or clarify sins. It designs a non-offensive vocabulary that refers to sin as human failure, lying as wise business savvy, abortion as terminated pregnancy, illegal aliens as undocumented workers, prostitution as surrogate therapy, smut as adult entertainment, homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle, adultery as a consensual relationship, premarital sex as trial marriage and alcoholism as a disease, which I find interesting, because if it is a disease it’s the only disease for sale over the counter and the only one the government collects revenue on. The soft generation needs to return to old definitions and standards.
Compromise cries, “Do not prophesy to us right things, speak to us smooth things…” (Isaiah 30:10) Did you catch that, “smooth things”? He’s a smooth operator. Churches now are more seeker-sensitive than Holy Spirit-sensitive. We want comforted absent the divine Comforter. We can make the justification that we are soft on standards, soft on crime and soft on rebellion from our kids because we are practicing the “fruit of the Spirit”, but a more honest answer would be that we’re soft on others because we’ve gone soft with our own selves. Paul claimed he buffeted his body to bring it under subjection. Nothing effeminate in self-crucifixion. Because Paul afforded no binges in his own flesh he was qualified to lay down the law for those under his apostleship.
We’re talking here about entering the kingdom of God. Though salvation is a free gift saints of other ages felt a need to fast, pray and pick up the cross as they squeezed through the strait gate. Now the narrow way has become a four-lane superhighway. Shall we hop and skip where the early saints bore the cross and trod? Personally, I love the feel of “soft”, my soft recliner, our water softener and eggs soft-boiled or sunny side up, but when it comes to spiritual warfare, we’re on a battleship, not a Carnival cruise-liner. And the storm at sea is only going to get worse.
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