Saturday, January 31, 2009

And They'll Know We Are Christians

Article # 174

And They'll Know We Are Christians
by Keith Giles

"If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. - 1 Cor 6:1-7

The church in Corinth was rebuked by Paul for a litany of failures. They had failed to love one another, they tolerated gross sexual misconduct in their fellowship, and they abused the Lord's Supper table.

In the passage above, Paul is rebuking them for taking one another to court and airing their disagreements publicly. His appeal to them is to consider their witness to the world around them, and to prefer being wronged and mistreated over tarnishing the Gospel of love and peace.

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you." - JESUS (Matthew 18:5)

Over the last year I have been saddened to see Christians spew hatred and bitterness towards one another on public forums like Facebook, blogs and message boards. One brother in Christ recently called me a swine on my Facebook page simply because I suggested he read something for himself rather than accept a cut and paste quotation at face value. My attempts to respond in love were rebuffed with more name-calling and public attack. This is not the first time I've been the target of such venomous dialog, obviously, but the ongoing, relentless stream of hatred from brother to brother has started to wear me down.

"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." - JESUS (Matthew 5:22)

Can we not see what this sort of behavior is doing to the Bride? Can we not pause for a moment and consider how our hateful words are damaging the Gospel, our witness, and especially, our own brothers and sisters in Christ?

I would rather be wronged, and wrong, than to continue this sort of online dialog any further. We, as ambassadors of Christ must return to a posture of humility and respond in love to anyone and everyone (whether online or in person) for the sake of Christ and in obedience to our Lord's command to be known by our love.

There are several people who I know read these words of mine and feel that I have been the one who is guilty of speaking hateful words here, and in my articles about God's design for His Church. Let me respond to this in advance by saying that my motivation for writing about the church has always been to share what I've learned with others. I will confess that at times I have intentionally crafted a headline or a paragraph to provoke a response, but my hope was to provoke a response which was thoughtful, not hateful or angry.

For those who have read my articles and felt offended I sincerely apologize. My desire is to teach my brothers and sisters in Christ (whom I love) about the exciting things I am learning about God's plan for His Church and how the New Testament reveals something many of us (including myself for many years) have missed.

I have done my best to take Scripture at face value and study and teach what it says to anyone who will listen. My aim has not been to offend or to attack or to harm anyone. I have also done my best, both in the articles and in my response to detractors, to avoid insult and refrain from name-calling. If anyone can show me where I have failed at this I will respond to their rebuke and repent publicly.

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." - JESUS (Matthew 5:23-24)

In the last several days I have also attempted, to the best of my ability, to make peace with those who have something against me. Some have responded favorably to my attempts to make peace, others have not, and some have simply ignored me.

My hope is to communicate the truth without harming anyone. I pray that I can shed far more light than heat and, in the future, I will go out of my way to avoid public arguments on this blog, or in response to my articles. If a brother or sister in Christ begins to publicly insult me or to become abusive I will end the conversation publicly and seek reconciliation privately.

I do understand that a discussion of ecclesiology can be difficult between brothers in Christ. Last week I went to lunch with my dear friend Bill and over lunch we had a spirited discussion of this very issue. He had many of the same questions and objections that many others have brought up and we had a very stimulating dialog together. Afterwards, Bill and I prayed for one another, blessed one another, embraced one another and made plans to meet together again soon.

Therefore, I know it is possible for brothers to discuss these issues without resorting to bitterness or name-calling or personal attacks. It is possible if we do our best not to forget that we love one another and that we are part of God's Family.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1



by Brant Hansen



Lori said...

I'm so sad to say I can totally relate. I've recently had to stop participating in a message board because the outlashes against other Christian women who choose to parent their children in a different way. It's so sad to see an online openly Christian group say things that are so hurtful, especially about other Christian women. It's unbelievable.

Ordinary Guy said...

Isn’t it sad that we (as Christians) should have to spend our time defending our beliefs to other believers? It’s poor stewardship of Gods time, talent and treasure that he has entrusted to us. I guess we shouldn’t be shocked by it. The early church struggled with Law vs. Grace (circumcision or not etc). It’s the same struggle the world dies around us.