I’ve been listening to a lot of preachers these days who are trying to establish a new principle of Christian living.
Namely, that Christians should not be critical or divisive in their speech. As in criticizing a leader or teacher within one’s own church. Or by criticizing a well-known preacher, writer, or ministry. Especially a leader or ministry that is respected by one’s own church.
The basis for this new principle comes from the idea that Christians are to be known “by our love”. By our love for each other. And by our love for all the people in the world.
This love principle is contrasted against being known by our correct orthodoxy or accurate interpretation of scripture, or our defense of some doctrinal position. Which are each, supposedly, based on our own preferences or “tribal” affiliations.
But is this “non-critical” posture really biblical? Is this truly what the Lord has told us to do?
Consider this verse: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17,18)
And this verse: “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9)
And even this passage: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (II Timothy 4:2-4)
A License to Sin
Our churches are being seduced into following a false idea of faithful discipleship.
But WHY is this taking place?
The short answer is to provide churches with a license to pursue programs, alliances, partnerships, coalitions, and whatever other “good paths” they choose in order to “live out the life of Jesus”.
Or to promote some new “missional” model of church ministry.
This is based on the idea that none of us are perfect.
And, therefore, we should not criticize others.
Which follows the general proverb that says, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones“. Or “let him that is without sin cast the first stone“.
A Little Perspective
It may be helpful to remind ourselves that the Apostle Paul was not perfect. He struggled with sins just as we do. He never achieved perfection upon this earth.
We should also note that, in the first century church, Paul and other leaders witnessed errors creeping into the church. They had to deal with terrible doctrinal issues even in the infancy of the church.
The doctrinal questions were serious. Some involved combining works and faith to achieve salvation.
One instance of this involved Peter and Barnabus. They were sending an inconsistent message to the Christians around them. By not taking a clear stand against the teaching of the Jews who said that one had to keep the Law plus trust Christ in order to be saved. (See Galatians, Chapter 2)
Paul had to rebuke Peter personally, in front of others, in order to counteract the seriousness of the situation.
Where This Principle is Leading Us
Following this new principle of No Criticism, leaves the church defenseless against error.
It’s like a country which refuses to keep its borders closed. Which allows anyone, without any credible restrictions, to waltz in without scrutiny. Allowing terrorists to creep in and potentially kill thousands of people in some horrible act.
A problem which, with normal vigilance, could have been prevented.
The church is no different.
It is called to vigilance as well.
But the church has, to a large extent, refused to fulfill its watchman’s duties.
The church has refused to heed the Old Testament passages dealing with the responsibilities and warnings given to the watchman on the wall. Whose duty was to watch for enemies attempting to creep in to destroy the city.
Instead, the church has foolishly believed that some vague “law of love” will keep it intact. Believing that following after positive and gentle and inclusive thinking is the way of love. Rather than obeying the truth through the Spirit.
Which is how the word of God truly defines love.
This is why every believer has been commanded to speak up against that which is wrong. Not simply against that which the church leadership agrees is wrong. But against anything that threatens the purity of the church.
We are not given a license to keep silent because we are “no better than anyone else”. Or to hold back the truth for fear of being labeled as someone who thinks he is “the only one with the truth”.
If we hold back speaking the truth, we are betraying the Lord and betraying our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All to adopt some false pretext of humility. And a false standard of love.
A Question of Authority
This comes down to an age-old question.
What do we value the most?
Do we love the Lord and His words? Do we seek to be faithful to Him above all else? Do we truly love Him more than “the church”?
Is the church to be the authority here? Or the word of God?
Are we called to be subservient to a church or a program or a movement? Are we called to “unity” above truth? To place some popular Christian view of “love” above the truth of the scriptures?
Church unity is not real if it exists outside of or in contradiction to the truth. Then it is simply a false unity.
To pursue “unity” by silencing or discouraging the open questioning of doctrine and practice is spiritual suicide.
True love and true unity cannot exist outside of reproof, rebuke, teaching, and exhortation. All done according to the word of God.
A church must place faithfulness to the word of God above all else that it does and believes.
Because then, and only then, do we truly love the Lord – Who is the only Source of Love.
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