Madder Than a Meatball!

Yuillogistically Speaking

by Major Chick Yuill – 

I learned a new expression this week–something I do regularly here in California. I was speaking to someone who was pretty steamed up about something and he said, ‘I’m madder than a meatball.’ It’s a colloquialism I’m delighted to have added to my list, because this week I got madder than a meatball! Now over the years I’ve learned to control my temper (you don’t survive as a pastor unless you deal with that one). So I’d better explain to you why I got so mad…

On Sunday afternoon we concluded the eXtreme ’98 weekend. To say it was a wonderful event is something of an understatement. More than 300 people–some from as far away as Canada and Australia–

attended either as delegates or day visitors; the worship was powerful and brought us right into the presence of God; the speakers were forthright and inspirational; the logistics surrounding catering, accommodation, and transport went more smoothly than we ever dared to hope. Best of all, the young adults for whom the event was primarily arranged went away determined to live as radical disciples of Jesus Christ, pledging their allegiance to all that The Salvation Army was called into being to fulfill.

When it was all over, as you might imagine, I was elated if a little tired. And then I got ‘madder than a meatball!’ The cause of my irritation was a telephone call from someone who had not attended the event, but who was unhappy at our choice of speakers. You need to know at this point that Tony Campolo is one of my heroes of the faith. I love a man who will bleed passion for the gospel and for lost people over everyone he meets, and no one does that more than Tony. The caller at the other end of the phone, however, was unhappy with our decision to have Tony on our platform and subjected me to a series of fairly hostile questions. Some of those questions I refused to answer. In the first place, I have no wish to engage in controversy for the sake of it, and in the second place, Tony Campolo does not need me to defend him. But I think the time has come for someone to spell out some basic principles that seem to have been overlooked in the attacks– entirely unfair in my opinion–which have been launched on Tony Campolo from some quarters in recent days.

So here’s what I believe. And if I still sound a little angry, that’s intentional!

  1. It’s possible– and difficult–for a Christian to be a Democrat, just as it’s possible–and difficult–for a Christian to be a Republican. Don’t be fooled. There is no political party anywhere in the world which perfectly enshrines Christian values. Politics is at best ‘the art of the possible’ and high moral principles often get lost. And when you vote for a change of government you simply exchange one lot of sinners for another. We need Christians who will be salt and light in both political parties.
  2. When a sinner openly declares repentance, men and women of God have to take that declaration seriously and offer support and counsel in Christ’s name. In that situation the counselor does not condemn or condone. Instead he seeks to restore the brother or sister who has fallen into sin to a relationship with God and with those who have been wronged. It is the responsibility of others to decide on the punishment to be meted out.
  3. Do not believe everything you read in the press. A recent issue of The New York Times claimed that Tony Campolo was ‘liberal’ in his attitude to homosexuality. A subsequent issue printed a correction stating that the truth is that Tony holds to a biblical position on the matter of homosexual conduct, but that he has sought to demonstrate compassion to homosexual people. I suggest that Jesus would do no less. I would go further and suggest that Jesus would be subject to the same criticism and adverse publicity that is being aimed at Campolo at this time.
  4. Be very careful of condemning as heretics Christian leaders whose opinions differ from your own. If a brother or sister denies the central tenets of the gospel–the divinity and humanity of Christ, the utter necessity and perfect adequacy of his atoning death, the truth that salvation is by grace through faith alone–then we have cause to warn others to be wary of their teaching. But other than that, we need to remember the old dictum: ‘Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.’

I do not have the high-profile ministry of Tony Campolo. But over the years the Army has allowed me to have something of an international platform, which has meant that my name has become known to many within our movement. Occasionally I have said things that have been viewed by some to be controversial. I know how much it hurts to be misunderstood and misquoted; and I know how much it brings healing when people take the trouble to encourage me or even to disagree with courtesy. Whatever our political stance, we need to offer that kind of prayerful support to a brother who has sought to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in places to which most of us would never have access.

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