John L. Cooper: Armed With Truth, Grace—and a Spine

John L. Cooper: Armed With Truth, Grace—and a Spine

It seems undeniable that across the globe we are going through a philosophical crisis of culture-changing proportions. This is a time of chaos, anger, vitriol and confusion. Here in America, very rarely do we see eye to eye, and each independent choice we make puts us onto a team pitted against “the other team” in a zero sum game of politics and morality. Ironically, there is one thing Americans seem to agree on: We want justice. 

I’ve seen more banners, sermons, marches and calls for justice over the last few years than all of the other decades of my life combined. I say that this is ironic because while we are unified in a desire for justice, this highlights what we are most disunited about: how one defines justice. We all claim to want what is right and just—we just vehemently disagree about what that is. 

For example, what if I think justice is stealing your property and you think justice is burning my house down? Or perhaps justice is stealing from the haves and giving it to the have-nots. That’s socially acceptable these days (even in some churches). What if I think justice is protecting the rights of the unborn while someone else claims that those very protections are harmful to women? This debate over justice is no petty disagreement, especially when those who believe in historical Biblical justice have their heads in the proverbial guillotine while the most eager and ill-equipped to mete out justice are willing, able and count themselves worthy to lower the blade. 

Christians are having to fight this battle on multiple fronts. First, we are fighting against worldly ideologies (2 Corinthians 10:5). We shouldn’t expect the world to recognize the truth of Christ, of course, but the latest twist is that the world doesn’t believe in the existence of truth at all. There is no objective truth, no absolutes, no morality and no absolute immorality. Everything is relative. Naturally, if all truth is relative, then it’s preposterous to believe in objective justice. Justice then must be defined from the self, the trends of the masses, or the loudest voices on social media. 

Second, Christians are fighting a battle from within. Relativism has become a battering ram against historical Christianity that is now being wielded not only by secularism but also by some seminaries, ministries, pastors, the elite, “smart people” with Bible degrees and lots of letters after their names, social justice warriors, influencers and professing Christian artists from every spectrum and denomination. 

We cannot escape the poignance of Judges 17:6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Micah’s mother had taken silver and “dedicate[d] it to the Lord” by hiring a silversmith to fashion an idol (Judges 17:3). God had expressly commanded His people not to worship an idol, but Micah had set up a shrine and household gods. Why? Because it was “right in his own eyes.” The people engaged in idolatry and wickedness, abandoning the pure worship of God, based on their own feelings, while ignoring God’s holy law. Does this sound familiar? This is becoming quite normative in the church. Today many of us wish to be “followers” of Christ as long as He allows us to lead the way, choose our own destination and opt out of carrying heavy luggage, especially the cross. 

Notice in this passage that the people weren’t aiming to be wicked. We don’t read that they set out to deny God, or hated Him, or desired to anger Him. They simply wanted to do it their way with their rules, as if to say, “I will worship God on my terms.” 

Perhaps they did it because it was popular, or maybe their feelings guided the way, or they followed what was acceptable and therefore weren’t canceled by society. But in the process, they abandoned the pure way of worship that God had revealed and replaced it with an unholy mixture designed to fulfill their desires. 

This is akin to our current dilemma in the church. Christians from all points of view are chanting and preaching “love and justice”—yet we don’t agree on who gets to define those terms. Do we let God define them, or do we all just do what seems right in our own eyes? Or worse, do we allow the atheistic humanists to define them for us—and then impose their secular definitions onto the Bible so that we ultimately twist the words of Jesus until they are safe for Twitter approval? Unfortunately, this seems to be the current trend. 

Without agreeing on how justice and righteousness are defined, how can we possibly have peace with one another? 

In my view, we must hold two principles in tension: love those who disagree with us, and never, ever back down an inch when it comes to truth. Not a single centimeter. 


It is not loving to lie to people, nor is it loving to sit silently while those we love make decisions that will bring death and destruction upon their lives. The difficulty is learning how to forgive and not repay evil for evil. Pray for enemies. Speak with humility. This isn’t easy! 

Therefore, let us be armed with truth and grace—and a spine. We will need it. I shudder to think of those who may sit in the pews of churches without ever coming to repentance and faith in Christ because we bought the world’s definition of being “loving” and were fearful of hurting their feelings. We must proclaim Christ to the world! Let us come together in unity by putting an end to doing what is “right in our own eyes” and begin doing what is right according to God’s Word. ©2021 John L. Cooper


Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. 

John L. Cooper is lead vocalist and bassist of the Christian rock band Skillet and author of the book “Awake & Alive to Truth,” which tackles the empty philosophies of postmodernism and relativism in light of God’s Word. 

Photo: ZUMA

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