Entreating a Brother, or Ranting?

Galatians 5:15

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

I’ve seen pastors and other supposed Christian leaders writing some amazing things recently.  If Christian “leaders” behave thus, it is no surprise that other Christians will, and if Christians write and say the things I’ve seen, it is no wonder that society as a whole is in a mess.

We need a good long look in the mirror, because Jesus said these things proceed from the heart.  This post is not only for pastors, but it is especially for them.

I’ll address some specifics in this post, things I’ve seen on multiple “Christian” sites by various people on various topics against various other people.  But this is much broader than any specific.  I’ve also seen apologies.  I rejoice over that.  It thrills my heart to see it.  But there aren’t always apologies, and these things should never happen at all among believers.  It’s far better that we don’t do these things than that we have to apologise and make it right

II Thessalonians 3:14-15

14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Sometimes, other Christians, even true believers in Christ, behave in such a way that we have to break fellowship with them.  That’s a sad thing, but it is true.  But when it happens, we do not treat them like enemies, we reprove and warn our brothers.

II Timothy 2:24-25

24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

We are to be gentle unto all men.  That is “all” as in “all.”  In fact, it specifically includes “those that oppose themselves,” those who are doing wrong and need to repent.  Yes, I am even supposed to be meek and gentle towards “that guy.”  I don’t know who your “that guy” is, but God knew about your very own personal “that guy,” and told you to admonish him gently as a brother.

Abominable Analogies

Other Christians, even when we disagree with them, even when we are convinced they are sinning, are not Nazis.  They should not be compared to Nazis.  The Nazis were racists, mass murderers, rapists, etc.  They gassed thousands of people a day.  I’ve seen Christians compared to Nazis by other Christians on more than one forum.  It is astounding.  Jews find it offensive for obvious reasons.  Our rhetoric is below Biblical standards — below pagan standards, for many unbelievers recognise it as inappropriate!  In I Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for immorality that was reprehensible to the heathen.  This should never go unrebuked among Christians — it is reprehensible even to the heathen.

Other Christians are not secret police.  I’ve seen this in more than one place, too.  The secret police in various societies persecute Christians and other minorities, murder, torture, etc.  This week, our brothers and sisters will be arrested and tortured by the secret police somewhere in the world.  How would those brothers and sisters feel about seeing Christians comparing other Christians to secret police?  I feel like weeping.  Please stop.

Other Christians are not terrorists.  (Do I have to elaborate on this?)  They should not be compared to terrorists.  Terrorists indiscriminately murder innocent people.  Comparing my brother to a terrorist is not “gentle” nor admonishing him as a brother.

Other Christians are not like Fred Phelps.  He is a hateful, venomous false teacher who has done more damage to the cause of Christ than probably anyone in the last 5-10 years.  He denies the grace of our Lord.  His god is a god of hate.  My brother may be very wrong, but he is not like Fred Phelps.

In our family, we have an expression — “lost the battle of wits.”  When we use these kinds of analogies, we show that we have lost the battle of wits, that we can’t engage on the substance.  We also show that we are treating our brother as an enemy, rather than an erring brother.  We really don’t need to draw these analogies.

Monstrous Musings on Motives

We aren’t omniscient.  We don’t know “that guy’s” motives.  We are speculating.  We may be wrong or right, but we don’t know.  Why is it that speculations about motives are almost always negative?  Why must we always assume the worst?

Worse, sometimes our speculations are asserted as fact, rather than as a guess.

Guessing about someone’s motives, and talking about our guess, is usually uncharitable, always counterproductive if our guess is wrong, and is a form of self-idolatry, putting ourselves in the place of an omniscient God.  You can’t “admonish as a brother” if you are attributing negative motives that aren’t true.  You risk destroying any positive impact you might have when you speculate about motives.

Fulminating Folly

It is one of the great truisms of the Internet age — in any extended discussion of the actions of a particular person, whether that person is present or not, some people who don’t know all the facts are going to make grand proclamations about the person and his actions.

Proverbs 18:13

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

In approximately 99.999% of Internet discussion, waiting until all facts are known would cause no problems at all.  Probably every pastor has had people render flawed judgments on some of his actions when they didn’t know all the facts.  Pastors, of all people, should take the lead in being slow to render judgment.

Why I Chose to Write This

Normally, Internet disputes between other Christians are not a focus of this blog.  If it isn’t profitable to people in our church, I’m slow to get too caught up in stuff.

This doesn’t just matter on the Internet (though it certainly matters there, and the world is watching), it matters in churches.  Our church, like probably every other church, has been hurt down through the years by things people have said.  People who believe our church teaches the truth, who believe that I as pastor and most people in the church try to live the truth, have become angry over some grievance or other.

Instead of handling it Biblically, they have let anger and bitterness take over, and they have left.  And they have talked, and said things, to other church members and even outside the church, even to unbelievers.  Even if their grievance had been completely real, their words were disproportionate.

Every church has experienced this.  Churches are being damaged by offenses magnified by rhetoric.  Pastors and other leaders should know, more than anyone else, the damage to churches and throughout society.  We must teach people to stop — but we can’t very well teach if we are doing it ourselves when we sit down in front of our computers.

Galatians 5:15

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Colossians 4:6

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

James 1:19-20

19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Let’s clean it up, brethren.  Our churches are suffering and the world is a mess.  Disagree, correct, reprove, rebuke, exhort.  Do so strongly, where necessary.  But do it right.  You’ll never reach the lost or edify the saints if they don’t believe you are His disciple, and His disciples love even their erring brothers.  Everyone knows that.

John 13:35

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in Ambassadors for Christ, Daily Christianity, The Christian and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Entreating a Brother, or Ranting?

  1. Jon Gleason says:

    Note: Please do not refer to specific examples of problems in the comments. That may well be appropriate at times, but I would rather not do it here. The purpose of this post is not to single out any one individual, but to challenge all of us to clean up what we are doing.

  2. Jon:

    I have read your wise counsel, and reflected upon the Word of God that you’ve brought it to life with. I thank you for your ministry to me in this regard. I have a new article going up today on a similar slant. I will be directing my readers here to read this convicting and convincing sermon in print.

    Lou Martuneac

  3. Patrick Heeney says:

    Amen. Only one new commandment introduced in the NT. Love one another. Yep. AMEN! Stand firm on the Word of God, but do it in LOVE and HOLINESS. Amen.

  4. ukfred says:

    Jon

    If we are human, then we sin. Scripture tells us all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. But at the same time, we bear the name of our Saviour in the description we use of ourselves, in the word Christian. So when we willingly sin, we are doing no less than bringing dishonour upon the Name we claim to revere. We are taking God’s Name in vain.

    I was on another site today which is hosted by a Christian, on which some people were concerned that churches were preaching a distorted word, rather than Scripture. This is the prime reason why the reformers were so determined that the ordinary people should have access to Scripture, that they could weigh the words of the preacher against Scripture. In the present day of 24/7 news and observation, we also have to be certain that our conduct matches the demands of Scripture too.

    Fortunately we have Scripture to guide our conduct, as you have quoted above, teaching patiently those of us who need it time and again.

  5. Forest Page says:

    Excellent article. Thank you.

  6. Jon Gleason says:

    Thank you, brothers, for your good thoughts.

  7. Jim Peet says:

    Thanks Jon, We posted on Sharper Iron here

  8. Jon,

    I think you are a good example in what you write above and worthy of emulation. I know you are not asking for that positive affirmation, but I believe it to be true and have thought it in the past. I commend you for your example and the truth of what you write.

    I would say that it is tough to say even the truth to someone, who you don’t believe is telling the truth or represents the truth, without it being thought to have a wrong tone. For instance, if someone uses rock music, and you say that they were using “rock music,” then you are a bad guy for saying that. I’ve recently been called a liar for saying that. Some would think that violates what you’ve written above. Anything short of positive affirmation is considered to be unchristian. In that kind of world, it is hard to come across as “gentle.”

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Kent. II Timothy 2:24 never promised it would be easy, did it? 🙂 You are right that sometimes anything short of affirmation is going to be taken as harsh. Fortunately, we aren’t commanded to convince those that oppose themselves that we are being gentle, we are only commanded to be gentle. That’s hard enough.

      You know what, though? I think a lot of this comes from disputing over words that aren’t in Scripture. I’ve seen, and you have too, arguments over whether someone is a “fundamentalist” — and that word isn’t in Scripture. Arguments over what is “rock music” again are over what isn’t in Scripture. Another conflict I’ve seen is over “dispensationalist” with differing definitions, or “Calvinist.”

      The problem is that these words all have different meanings to different people, and you can’t point to Scriptural definitions for them. Maybe we need to stop using short-hand and spell out what we mean a little more distinctly. That won’t solve much of the problem that you’ve described, but it will help.

      Here’s the thing, Kent. Anyone who is honest at all can tell when someone is actively trying to be gentle / gracious in their speech, and when someone is intentionally harsh. Most of us fall in between those two limits most of the time, but the more we actively, consciously push ourselves towards the former, the more we will actually succeed. And it isn’t optional, these verses I cited are commands, right?

      Thank you for the kind words. As you now know, the adversary will work very hard to tempt me to err against the Scriptures I’ve given, now that I’ve put them out there. If you take a moment to pray for me, I’d appreciate it.

  9. Jon- generally good thoughts. However, responding specifically to “Abominable Analogies”- there is such a thing as a legitimate use of hyperbole. In the most extreme example in Matthew 16:23, Jesus addresses Peter as “Satan.” James calls believers “adulterers and adulteresses” in James 4, though they are not guilty of the physical act of adultery.

    One must be judicious with its use, but sometimes strong words and analogies can be useful in order to stress the significance of a statement. And even if it is possible such words are employed inappropriately, Colossians 3:12-15 seems pertinent- its instructions are not given to those inciting conflict, but to those potentially affected by it.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Greg. Thanks for the good comment. Please check my thinking here.

      In Mt. 16:23, Jesus has just told Peter that he has spoken words revealed by the Father. He now tells Peter he has spoken Satan’s words. It’s an unusual case that I wouldn’t really call hyperbole, I think it is metonymy for the words spoken. Without the context of verse 17, I would think you are right, but the contrast seems clear.

      James 4. The epistle is very Jewish, so I’m pretty sure he is writing to a largely Jewish audience. They would know the OT usage of spiritual adultery, of following another god when espoused to the true God. James 4:4 appears to me to be teaching that they are engaged in idolatry, exalting their own desires/lusts to the status of a god. It’s not so much hyperbole as an OT allusion, I think.

      Maybe these are hyperbole, but I’m not persuaded. Yet, I agree that strong words / analogies can be useful. That said….

      I doubt ability to mimic the form of strong words (like your examples) and maintain the needful heart. Our Lord could speak thus without sinning, and the Spirit could move James to write rightly thus. I’ve yet to see evidence I can, and I see plenty of evidence that others also cannot. And it is hard for me to see that the particular analogies I’ve mentioned are useful when attributed to a believer, even an erring believer.

      • “I’ve yet to see evidence I can, and I see plenty of evidence that others also cannot.”

        Seriously? You could never say something in, say, preaching a message like “Friends, I’ve got to tell you, if we engage in that kind of activity, we are no better than…” I mean, I could at the very least imagine saying something like “and when I project that kind of image and am not careful to show compassion and invest myself in the lives of others for the glory of God… brethren, I’m no better than Fred Phelps in the perception of the world around me. And friend, the same goes for you.”

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Ah. There’s a HUGE difference between what you said and what I’ve seen. You said, “Behaviour X is like (horrible analogy).” Or, “Behaviour Y will make people view me the same as (horrible analogy).”

        What I’ve seen (and I’m sure you have too) is, “Person Y is like (horrible analogy).” Or, “They are the (characteristic) Taliban” or “secret police” or “Nazis” or whatever. Plug in whatever you want for (characteristic).

        There is a significant difference between saying a behaviour is like something and saying a person is like something. Even then, there are analogies that we shouldn’t use. There are few things a true believer, even one who is in serious error, could do that really should be compared to the Nazis or Taliban.

        Perceptions, though, I think we can use a broad range of analogies when saying we will be perceived as no different than X. I have no problem with warning someone that they will be perceived as no different than Phelps if they behave in a certain way.

        So, three things:
        1. Personal analogies — avoid hyperbole.
        2. Behaviour analogies — let’s not get too carried away, but there’s more room here.
        3. Perception analogies — this can be very broad.

        In all of these, we should remember that overstating our case is usually counterproductive, and makes our analogy the focus rather than drawing attention to the actual problem we’re addressing.

        Am I making sense here?

      • Jon,

        You’re making sense to me. I would only question if (speaking generally) a personal analogy can overlap with the behavior/perception analogies. Again, citing the Scriptures I mentioned (and understanding there is more that could be said that we might not pursue here), Jesus didn’t say that Peter was behaving like Satan, or that others might perceive him to be such.

        I do see the need to temper our words generally- I would continue to contend that there are times when strong words or analogies may be legitimately employed. Again, in light of Colossians 3:12-15 (which is very fresh in my mind, since I presented it last night to our Sunday evening folks), it seems to me that even if they are employed in wrong fashion, a Christian needs to use the occasion to consider in humility what might have prompted their use, rather than focus on the potential offense one could take by their deployment.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Thanks, Greg. The overlap you’re talking about is really, I think, metonymy, and is appropriate in a context where it will be generally understood as such. That is unlikely to be the case on the Internet. 🙂

        “A Christian needs to use the occasion to consider in humility what might have prompted their use, rather than focus on the potential offense one could take by their deployment.”

        Greg Linscott hits the ball! It’s headed for the fence! He’s around first, and the ball is OFF THE WALL! He’s rounding second, and slides safely into third base for a triple!

        Why did he not hit a home run? 🙂

        1. “Consider in humility” probably should specifically include asking others to “consider” / tell us if they know “what prompted their use” and humbly listening to what they say. Part of humility is looking to address our blind spots.
        2. Even if the wrong was totally unprovoked, we don’t focus on the offense, we simply rejoice in the trial the Lord has allowed/brought into our life. “Count it all joy.”

        Sorry for the dumb baseball analogy. Your point is excellent, and one I’ve not always found easy to learn / live by.

  10. Brian says:

    Thanks Jon,
    Timely words that all of us should take to heart and work to see emulated in our lives. I stand guilty of those charges at times.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thanks, Brian. We know what to do when found guilty. Confess, repent (commit to, by God’s grace, change), trust, rejoice in forgiveness and restoration.

  11. Janet says:

    The word rock music is not mentioned in the Bible A number of words to discribe something or things are not mention by name but I think we can discern the acts and one can be associated with the ones that are .When I think of rock muslic I associate the music,dancing and singing (screaming) being being heard by Moses ,and Joshua before they got to the camp I think of that celebration of music and dancing liken to the first WoodStock.
    Moses ,Calab and Joshua heard the noise and were confused by it it was not anything they had heard before Exodus 32:17-19 Today much of music and singing in Churches although it has a good message the music it wrong its like putting a good full course meal on a trash can lid. It gives a confusing result and God is not the author of confusion. If one was to mix a quart of good milk in with a quart of spoiled milk it wouldn’t be fit to drink.
    Rock music is not mentioned but I have read somewhere I think its in Proverbs worded something like… listening to music that makes you more sad is like rubbing salt in a wound

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Janet. I’m convinced, with you, that rock music is not appropriate in the church. But I’d rather discuss that on one of the posts where I’ve talked about music so it doesn’t distract from this post about using charitable speech.

      I don’t know the verse about salt in a wound, nothing comes to mind on that.

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