Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Good Heathen Counsel

Why are we so willing to devalue the gifts of another? Is it insecurity, pride, the influence of the enemy? Personally, there are times I don't understand the gifts of another, and admittedly, I can be rather quick to pull out my ladder, go up into the tree and start fruit inspecting. Fruit inspection, testing, and mutual judgment are really the only biblical means we do have to deal with the subject, but do we have to do it with such virulence?

Everywhere in the blogosphere, on the radio, in books and magazines, self-appointed judges are holding self-proclaimed prophets' feet to the fire. It ain't pretty most of the time! Isn't there at least a vestige of respect due to someone who calls Jesus Lord? Even if someone is off doctrinally in what we consider a very dangerous way, we should always be mindful of how our response will affect the unlearned and weak. When we throw ice water on the gifts of others with such gusto, the babes watching decide never to give anyone the opportunity to do that to them. It doesn't make them careful, it makes them timid and silent! If angels disputing over the body of Moses could be respectful of demons, shouldn't we be a little more cautious when disputing those who may well be brothers and sisters in the Lord?

My grandmother was a salty character, not a church lady at all, but I did learn some wisdom from her. In the midst of my adolescent rebellion, I happened to say something disparaging to someone in her presence. She took me to task for being disrespectful. I rejoined that nobody got my respect until they proved they deserved it. She cut my feet out from under me, correcting me with, "Everyone gets your respect until they've proved they don't deserve it!" She was right, I have tried to live by that ever since. She was a heathen, but I find myself wishing we followed her good counsel in the church!

8 comments:

  1. SLW:

    Thanks for this "Good Christian Counsel". I really appreciate it. Also thanks again for commenting recently on my blog, that whole conversation ended up being far more critical than I ever intended.

    It reminded me that several months ago I ran across an entire blog and website dedicated to running down and criticizing a large Southern Baptist church with a famous pastor that I can see from my upstairs window on a clear day here in Lake Forest,California.

    I have attended there at least a half dozen times and was blessed. The church has a good youth program,is well thought of in the community,and is a good neighbor. I can see good fruit coming out of the ministry. I know at least a dozen people who have come to Christ there and made major changes in there lifestyle. The church spends millions in supporting missions.

    Yet here are these folk living 1500 miles away talking about a ministry I knew about, making negative comments some of which had some validity but many were unfounded accusations.

    It really did make me sad that folk would put so much time, and energy into tearing down another ministry when the world is full of people who have never even heard of Christ.

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  2. There are many, many times I don't understand the gifts of people; some in my own church, and some who are in the public arena. BUT, until the first time I was filled with the Holy Spirit and floated to the floor (that's what it felt like to me)I didn't understand that either. I was a skeptic... I am NO LONGER a skeptic.
    I love to laughingly tell people that this body suffers pain when it hits the deck. (I'm NOT a little woman)
    I slipped in some water on a concrete porch shortly after my first experience on the floor at church, and I was in severe pain and suffered for weeks with bruises a tailbone injury. I've fallen twice with the filling of the Holy Spirit and it felt wonderful...

    Isn't there at least a vestige of respect due to someone who calls Jesus Lord?

    My answer is yes, but... I know the influence of the enemy is rampant.

    Romans 12: 3-13
    1 Cor. 12: 7-11

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  3. Michael,
    I find myself torn in responding to your comments, not because I disagree with what you said, but because, as much as I hate the tone of some critiques, I understand the benefit of having critics around in the Kingdom (i.e. Proverbs 27:6). They [can] serve as warning sirens, or as safety ropes in our climb, or barriers at the end of roads that lead to precipitous cliffs. The issue, for me, is how they go about the criticism: are they rude, insulting, dismissive, etc.? Do they prop up straw men to argue with rather than going to the principal? Are they in effect trying to strip off their own following from an established leader? Do they exhibit a morbid fascination with conflict? The list could go on. The bottom line-- do they disturb the the faith of the sprouting and blossoming and cause divisions of animosity within the body.
    There are times to argue and even anathematize, but discretion, love, and redemption always need to guide the execution. We are way too willing to castigate brothers and sisters sincerely following the Lord in the best obedience they can.

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  4. Rita,
    I'm not big on "catchers" because I figure if the Holy Spirit knocks them down, he can land them safely and softly. Nonetheless, it can pay to have catchers because there's no guarantee that someone won't go down on their own. Then he or she will need all the help we can him or her.
    The reference, particularly to Romans was right on the mark.

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  5. "Even if someone is off doctrinally in what we consider a very dangerous way, we should always be mindful of how our response will affect the unlearned and weak"

    Can you provide some instances in Scripture where the Apostles offered a "mindful response" of the dangerous doctrines of others?

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  6. Anonymous,
    I can't say that this was an issue for the Apostles in that they were there to speak for themselves. They spoke with authority that none who have spoken since have had. After the Apostles, we speak opinions (educated though they may be) about what the Apostles spoke authoritatively. We all claim to do that with integrity, devotion, accuracy, and reliability, and yet we come up with sometimes diametrically opposing viewpoints. The question then becomes, did the Apostles teach us something about dealing with controversy, strife and argument? The answer (which is more to the point of this post) is yes. Here are some examples:
    1 Timothy 6:4-5; Philippians 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:3-17; Philippians 1:15-18; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; and Titus 3:1-11 (in no particular order).
    I am not citing Apostolic behavior as a precedent, but dealing with non-apostolic behavior in the present. IMHO, too many deign to speak harshly with authority they do not have to people whom Christ paid the ultimate price, WITHOUT regard to what light their behavior casts on Christ, or as mentioned in the post, what effect it may have on His babes (Luke 17:1-2). A little more humility and a lot less vitriol is sorely needed.

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  7. I don't know, in 1 Timothy 6 Paul uses the words " conceited, understanding nothing", in Philipians he says "the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not from pure motives,"

    Are you objecting to those words?

    From these verses, I can gather, apostolic or non-apostolic, that when we as believers recognize the abuse of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it behooves us to defend it. Maybe strong words are in order despite what the unlearned may think? Perhaps the unlearned may be won to Christ by our demonstration of passion protecting Him?

    There is a line here, I understand, when we do not do as the Bible teaches, "be angry and sin not". But some anger, even toward or brothers and sisters in Christ, handled carefully and with wisdom is many times necessary. Perhaps we need the authority of the Apostles today? Don't you think?

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  8. @Anon
    "Are you objecting to those words?"
    No, I don't object to Paul using them-- he had the authority and accuracy of doctrinal knowledge to do so. We, at best are derivitive to Paul, and it's hard to say how accurately we hear what he or the other authors of scripture were saying. I don't want "to go all relative" on you (that's not at all what I have in mind by what I'm saying), but I am saying two equally thoughtful, studious, faithful Christians can see the same text differently. One or the other, or even both, are wrong, but it doesn't follow that either has a right to run roughshod over the other. Anyone you're going to be living with for eternity deserves (in my mind) at least a modicum, and if fact much more than a modicum, of respect. Therefore, we need to be mindful of our bonds when discussing our differences.

    When I say unlearned and weak, I don't necessarily mean unsaved, but those who are fragile of faith or undiscipled in practice. My experience tells me these folk are adversely affected by what seems harsh or mean-spirited. It has a chilling and frightening affect on them. That doesn't mean we avoid decisive disciplinary action (a la Matt 18 or 1 Corinth 5) but we shouldn't be seen to be enjoying it-- God doesn't (Ezekiel 33:11), nor adding a fleshly cockiness to it.

    All that I have said, should not be taken to mean that we cannot speak bluntly to each other. Sometimes a bracing word is just what the doctor ordered; however, those that must speak hammer-like words should be ready and willing to administer first-aid afterwards (see Gal 6:1-2), as Paul said to the Ephesians, "speaking the truth in love."

    As far as Apostolic authority goes, it cannot be replicated. The faith was once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), and that was sufficient for the age of the church. If Peter considered himself the Pope, he certainly left no record of it. So called apostolic succession has been nothing but a disaster for biblical Christianity, leading the masses over the cliff following the "authorities" like lemmings.

    What we need is a humility that sees the other as better than ourselves, and a mutual submission of each other to each other that would rather die than cause division. All scriptural concepts which I'll leave to you the adventure of finding and studying.

    God bless, and thanks for the stimulating comments.

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Any comment in ill taste or not germane to the post may be deleted without warning. I am under no obligation to give anyone an opportunity to call me names or impugn my motives or integrity. If you can't play nice, go somewhere else and play.