I’m not a little guy. I stand 6’4″ in my shoes and I am trying to diet now to get down to 300 pounds. Walking a tightrope for me would be a near impossible task. But it would be easier than finding the balance between speaking the truth and speaking in love – the model Paul gave us for Christian conversation.
1) There is no question that the biblical warnings about false teachers coming into this world has come true. Emergent compromise. Blurring of theological lines. Gospel ignorance and even false gospels abounding. Biblical illiteracy. It is everywhere.. The idea that we should not exercise discernment, should not call one another to account for our doctrinal statements – that is utter folly in a world with this many false apostles, false prophets, false teachers and false brethren (and sistern). Anyone who tells us to ignore doctrine and just love Jesus is telling a ship to cut loose their rudder so they can steer easier.
2) There can also be little doubt that there are some in the Christian world, and especially in the blogging world, who come across like predators. I see bloggers who get fixated on attacking a certain doctrine, group or movement that they lose all perspective. They treat those who are in their target group as enemies of Christ and bite and tear with freedom, even enthusiasm. Honestly, I think there are some Christians (using the term broadly) who are not happy unless they are calling someone a heretic, pulling the plank out of someone else’s eye or humiliating another for their error. And, frankly, sometimes I’ve leaned to that side in my own blogging.
At the root, we are people of grace. We must hold to the truth, but must do so with grace and love. I am amazed at the lack of grace exhibited among some of God’s people and the spiritual pride with which we demonstrate that lack of grace. We who have received grace from God ought to seek first to share grace, not condemnation, and only draw that gospel line when it is absolutely necessary.
I have not reached a balance on this. Sometimes, I lean too far to the grace side. Sometimes, I catch a little of the spirit of Ezekiel and set myself up as the dispersal agent of God’s holy wrath. Here are some basic ideas I have, as a starter, but if they were a perfect solution to this dilemma, I’d be perfect in my execution of them.
1) It is possible to confront error in a spirit of grace. It is much harder to do so than to just drop the h-bomb (heretic) on the other, but it can be done. In this effort, I make these suggestions:
- Accurately represent that which you confront. If you are engaging a fellow-believer (even a professing fellow-believer) it is your duty to understand and accurately present the beliefs and behaviors of the one you are confronting. The person you are confronting should recognize his own beliefs as you confront them.
- Argue scripturally. Show exactly why you believe this person’s doctrine is wrong, from scripture.
- Remember that in the NT, discipline was always couched in terms of winning a brother, restoring to spiritual vitality and building unity. Breaking fellowship and consigning someone to the ranks of the false was always a last resort, not a strategy.
- Remember that it is your job to point out what you believe to be error, but it is not your duty to pronounce judgment.
- Avoid assigning motives. You aren’t God and you don’t know other people’s hearts. Don’t act like you do. I’ve experienced this repeatedly (probably done it a few times myself, but I don’t notice that!). “You hold this position because…” “You are saying that because…” Analyze doctrine, even behavior, but you are not God, do not see the intent of the heart and shouldn’t assume you can.
- Try to avoid emotional confrontation. If you are upset, calm down, spend some time with the Lord, get your own heart in order before you write the confrontational piece. When you write while you are angry and amped up, you will generally say things more strongly than you should and regret them later when you’ve cooled down.
2) Err to the side of grace. We are gospel folks, grace folks. We try to walk that tightrope of speaking the truth in love, but if we are going to miss, let it be to the love side. Force someone to make you call them a heretic, don’t be cruising the skies looking for someone to drop the h-bomb on. Try to keep things civil, collegial and cordial. Jesus had some stuff to say about this. You know, “turn the other cheek” and things like that (those verses we know but ignore).
3) Don’t use false kindness as a tactic. How often have you seen someone address another as “Brother Buford” then proceed to call him every evil thing he can think of, then close the comment by saying, “Blessings in Christ”? That’s using grace as an excuse, a manipulative tactic, not exhibiting Christlikeness. Labeling something as humor or using a few nice words doesn’t ameliorate a lack of grace in a post or comment. If you say, “I appreciate Calvinists” but every word you say about them is negative, no one is fooled. If you say that abstentionists are your partners in Christ but treat them like KJV-Only, ranting and raving maniacs, your words are empty. (And, of course, both of those could have been reversed). Perhaps certain errors are more prevalent in some groups, but we all exhibit the same fleshly tendencies at times.
4) The sinful actions of another never justify your own. Wow, how many times have I heard that one? Someone says something unkind and justifies it like a toddler on the playground – he started it. “I’m just responding to what he said!” But we were told to return good for evil, love our enemies and bless those who persecute (annoy?) us!
These are just some of my thoughts. I watch the blog world light up when controversy appears. Yesterday, with the TD Jakes and Matt Chandler/Steve Furtick issues, we had about a 50% increase in page views. Bloggers love controversy. So, it behooves us to think through these issues and continue to work toward a balance between truth and grace.
So, what’s your perspective? How do you balance doctrinal accountability with love and grace?