Thoughts to Ponder

Whose job is it anyway?

Out of 70 book reviews on my web site, only three have been negative reviews. By a negative review I mean that I would not recommend the book and I lay out why I feel that way in depth. I quote the author and list the pages where the quote came from so that people can verify my quotes and even the context from which they were taken. I have also written devotionals denouncing what I feel is false teaching today, like self-esteem or that you should forgive God of the things that you have held against Him in your heart.

I have received e-mails accusing me of not following Matthew 18. The worst e-mails have come from people who are upset that I would dare to "attack" another Christian. These people take me to task for "attacking" the authors of the books I review because they are Christians, while at the same time calling my salvation into question, and calling me names.

What this shows me is that the Christian community does not have a very high discernment level and indeed many Christians do not want anyone else to discern and speak out about false teaching. It reminds me of the children's story of the Emperor's New Clothes. No one wanted to admit that they did not see anything, they were afraid of being different. But they take it to an even higher level, they won't speak out and they don't want anyone else to either.

That brings me to my main point, whose job is it to speak out? Do we have a responsibility to defend the faith and to speak out when we see or hear things which are false? I think we do.

Many people seem to think it is only the pastors who have the responsibility. I disagree. I will also tell you that it is few and far between now days that you will hear a pastor speak out boldly about anything. We are too caught up in the gospel of making people feel good and speaking out about something or someone makes people feel uncomfortable.

I think it should make us feel uncomfortable. We need to feel that there is something wrong when so much false teaching is being spread throughout the Christian community.

One of the other complaints I hear about my reviews and my devotionals is that if we as Christians speak out about each other what will the world think? Why would they want to follow us if we are so divided? This might sound like a good argument on the surface but I don't think it makes any sense when you look deeper. If we refuse to speak out then what are seekers (sinners) going to be taught? Plus at what point do you draw the line?

To a Christian the line might look clear, you just don't speak out about anything that a 'true Christian' says, but it is okay to speak out about a cult for instance. Well the problem there is if we are concerned that the world will think we are divided then you better not speak out about a cult either, because the world does not know the distinction.

The world hears the Mormons quoting from the Bible, they hear the Jehovah's Witness quoting from the Bible and they hear mainstream Christians quoting from the same Bible. To many we are all just "Christians." So if we speak out about the false teachings of these groups or ones similar to them the world will think we are divided anyway. So to me that argument does not hold water.

As I said one of the criticisms I have received is that I do not follow Matthew 18. Here is the part of Matthew 18 that is being referred to:

(Matthew 18:15-17 NIV) "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

This passage clearly says if your brother sins against you. Have any of the authors who wrote these books sinned against me? No, you won't find my name in any of the books, nor are they directed at me.

So what about a case like this, where a person feels that another Christian is doing something wrong or teaching something wrong? Should that be addressed privately? That is a great question and I don't think there is just one answer to it. Or maybe I should say that I think the answer is; it depends.

If you are attending a church and you hear the pastor teach something that you feel is wrong. I think it is your responsibility to go to him privately and address the issue. It is possible that he made a mistake, or that you misunderstood. In which case you will be able to clear up the matter almost immediately. Or it is possible that you and the pastor have a real difference of belief that can't be reconciled. At that point it is up to you whether this matter is important enough that you need to find another body of believers to join or if it is minor and you should just try to ignore it.

I don't think you should post bulletins around the church telling people what you think of what the pastor said. That will only cause division and if the pastor is not going to agree with you in the first place that will certainly not do anything to get him to agree with you.

That is my opinion when a local body of believers is involved. But again that is not what we are talking about in this case. We are talking about people who either write books or have a national pulpit (radio or television) and therefore have a very public ministry.

I want to go back to Scripture to show you what I believe our response to a public teaching or action should be. I want to look at how Paul handled an incident like this:

(Galatians 2:11-14 NIV) When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. {12} Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. {13} The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. {14} When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? In verse 14 Paul says that he spoke to Peter in front of them all.

Why would Paul do that? I feel it is because others were being led astray by what Peter was doing, so it was not a matter of this issue being just between Peter and Paul. I am not trying to equate myself with Paul but I feel that the same situation exists. These people who are teaching what I believe is false teaching are doing so in a very public way. I feel that many people are being led astray by this teaching, so I publicly rebuke and try to correct the teaching.

If the church as a whole lacks discernment, which I believe it does, and if these people are publicly teaching things which are false, and I believe they are, then the rebuke and call for discernment also need to be public.

That said it comes back to whose responsibility is it to speak out? We know that Paul was an Apostle so that would give him authority, but what about us; the common believer? Do we have a responsibility or for that matter even the right to speak out?

Many people seem to dismiss the Old Testament because we are under a different covenant, but God says He never changes so I think we can use the Old Testament as well as the New Testament to see what God has to say about a given subject.

(Leviticus 19:17 NIV) "'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. God is speaking to all the people here and He tells them to rebuke their neighbor frankly.

(Proverbs 27:5-6 NIV) Better is open rebuke than hidden love. {6} Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. I think this verse sums it up nicely, why are you rebuking someone? Out of concern and with love and discernment or out of malice? Only the person rebuking will know, but just because some people will think it is out of malice should not stop you from doing what you know you should do.

(Luke 17:1-3 NIV) Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. {2} It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. {3} So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. We can't often know the heart of the person who spreads error, but as this passage shows we should be very concerned not only with the error that is being spread but with the person who is spreading the error. If we just sit back and say nothing, who are we helping? Not those who are led astray nor are we helping those who are spreading the error.

That brings up how we should respond to a rebuke. I think it is natural for us to resent being told we are wrong, but if we are wise we will listen, weigh the information and learn from it. Here again God's word is not silent:

(Proverbs 15:31 NIV) He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.

(Proverbs 17:10 NIV) A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool.

(Psalms 141:5 NIV) Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers;

It is uncomfortable for us to see another person criticized. But before we attack the messenger we should weigh what is being said by God's word. If the person doing the criticism is wrong then we should in turn rebuke that person, but if the original message is the one that does not stand up to Scripture then we should stand behind the person doing the rebuking no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

I wish there was never anything that I heard or read which was spoken by or written by a Christian that did not match up with God's word but that is not the case. The Bible tells us that in the last days this will be more and more common. We must first and foremost know the Bible so that we can discern between good and false teaching. We must judge everything we hear and read by God's word so that we are not mislead, then we must be willing to stand up for what is right and biblical even when those saying the false things are very popular.

I think that the Bible even teaches that in extreme cases where the person knows what they are doing or saying is wrong that we should go even further. (1 Corinthians 5:13 NIV) God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Paul made the following statement to the elders at Ephesus: (Acts 20:29-31 NIV) I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. {30} Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. {31} So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. We should take heed too.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

911 - God's Help Line Articles Apologetics Book Reviews
Contemplating Suicide? Discipleship Eternal Security How to know Jesus
Help for the Cutter In Memory Marine Bloodstripes Police Humor
Police Memorial SiteMap Statement of Faith Testimonies
Thoughts to Ponder True Life Stories Vet's Memorial Why I Have a Page
eXTReMe Tracker