I was furious last night after reading a statement by a friend on Facebook. He repeated the lies being promoted within the SBC, accusations against the doctrinal fidelity and spiritual integrity of our officers, professors, and some key leaders. He is a good man with no ill intent. He is lodging these accusations because he has been led to believe that false charges are true. People he respects say these things without conscience or concern and he believes them.
Another friend said something in a private conversation a few days ago that roused me at first, but made me begin to think. Paraphrasing, he said that for the sake of our convention, we need to confront and expose the lies of the liars who lie by speaking lies with lying tongues. That is a very loose paraphrase.
I have done that often, here at Voices. I have seen something that inflamed me, something I believed to be untrue or unfair, accusations made against friends or against people I respect and I react. I confront what I believe to be dishonest or unfair attacks and generally feel that I am doing what is right and good when I do.
But I wonder if the call-out culture is of God as much as it is of the flesh. Yes, Jesus confronted the Pharisees – with zest – and Paul called out those who troubled the church. I wonder, though, if we are missing the emphasis of Scripture.
My dad used to say something that leans against our “confront it and call it out culture.” He said that most problems in the church would go away completely within a short time if the pastor would simply do nothing about them. Our confrontation sometimes makes mountains out of molehills. The trick, of course, is knowing when the problem is real and when it needs attention.
Jesus did confront the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees at times, but he did not track down and confront every lie told about him or every rumor that was spread. He let it go. Evidently, Paul was constantly attacked and it was only rarely that called people out. It was always for the glory of God and the good of the church, not to protect his reputation.
I have been preaching through Revelation recently and I noticed something that struck me, and convicted me a bit, causing me to spend a lot of time reevaluating my online engagement. Obviously, any time we delve into eschatology, our views are going to vary. I have tried, in my current series, to avoid the curiosities and controversies and just look at the big picture of Jesus’ victory in the world. It is a slightly odd approach for a dispensationalist, perhaps.
As I studied Revelation 17 and 18, the destruction of Babylon the Great, I was struck by something. Without straying into details, Babylon seems to represent the world system – political, cultural, and religious; a toxic mix – and it is brought down by God. In 17:16-17, John sees its destruction.
The ten horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his plan by having one purpose and to give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.
This verse makes it clear that God, in his time and according to his sovereign plan, brings Babylon to the dust. How does it work? God does not rain burning sulfur as he did on Sodom. He does not send angels to wreak havoc on Babylon. No, Babylon was a religious/political system that served the purposes of the Antichrist, but eventually he tires of their power and influence and he turns on them. The Antichrist is the hand of God in bringing the destruction of Babylon the Great. Evil destroys evil.
The Gamaliel Approach
There are examples of this throughout Scripture and I’ve seen examples of this in real life, repeatedly, throughout my ministry. The work of the Holy Spirit in the people of God edifies and builds up. The flesh, powered by Satan’s lies and our own sin, tears down and destroys. There is an expiration date attached to every work of evil.
Sin is a cancer in the soul that eventually destroys that in which it lives. You cannot walk in the power of the flesh and do evil in God’s church without being self-destructive. Eventually, your sin will find you out.
This is the flaw with conspiracy theories. Evil conspiracies do not work because the conspirators tend to destroy themselves.
Remember Gamaliel? When the Jewish leaders were conspiring against the church he brought a word of wisdom to them, in Acts 5:35-39.
“Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re about to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.”
If the plan is of human origin, it will come to nothing. It will fail, in and of itself, because that is the way of things. If it is of God, you cannot stop it.
Permit me to be specific. I am not a fan of the Conservative Baptist Network for several reasons or of the things being spread by the Founders, by 1689ers, and certain other groups. What should I do about it? There may come a time to confront. I certainly believe there is a time to give divisive people the “Titus 3:10” treatment online. I’ve blocked and muted and unfollowed freely in recent days.
Here’s what I’m thinking, though. I am wondering if all of my calling out and confrontation actually accomplish kingdom purposes. In James 1:19-20, we read,
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.
I heard of a pastor who angrily confronted a key church leader in a hallway during the transition between Sunday School and church. When other leaders talked to him about it, he claimed the mantle of “righteous anger” and refused to repent. We all want to claim that same mantle, as if we are all turning over the tables of moneychangers or calling out the whitewashed tombs of the Pharisees. But, can we be honest. Our engagements on social media are often more marked by anger and vainglory than righteousness, aren’t they? Is it possible that MY anger is always righteous, always justified, always a servant of God’s purposes?
I am thinking that what I need to do is devote more time to articulating positive solutions to SBC issues and less time confronting those I think are lying. If they are right, if God is on their side, I do not want to be opposing God. If, as I believe, these groups are wrong, dishonest, fleshly, and divisive, then they have more to worry about than the sharp tongue of a blogger from Sioux City. God will deal with them. If they are walking in the flesh, as I think, their movement has an expiration date. That is the nature of the flesh. It will self-destruct.
My job is to walk in the Spirit, to speak God’s truth as best I can, to build up and edify, and to remember, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” Of course, figuring out when to confront and when to “make room for the wrath of God” is an art, not a science. I am quite sure I will fail at it. I will sit back when I should speak and speak when I should sit back.
I am not saying that confrontation or discipline are never needed. I am saying that our “call-out” culture is not as grounded in God’s word as we think. I doubt any of us will ever completely get this right, but in my current struggle with my flesh and my frustration with SBC issues, I am thinking that the call-out/clap back culture is not accomplishing the purposes of God.