Correcting the Correctors

Moved to action by an excellent post at Light and Salt by David U. – Intolerant of Intolerance – I think I went too far. My frustration and exasperation came out as anger against someone kind enough to converse with me online over some points on which we disagree. (That, on the heels of posting a response one blogger called subversive – I looked it up; he’s right – to a document with which I disagree. It was subversive; I wanted the signers of the document to know what it felt like to encounter one with which I felt they should not disagree – posted on the Internet for the whole world and God to see.)

I started to make the rounds of the usual suspects … the sites that I knew would be roundly condemning to hell anything they saw as contrary to God’s will within the fellowship that I count myself a part of. Finding little or nothing, I wandered to other sites, nerves raw and ready to argue any points on any site. (No URL requests, please.) I began to wonder if I was becoming one of the folks I perceived as People Who Are Always Right About Absolutely Everything.

I guess what convicted me most was something I perceived as a compliment; when one blog linked to my Affirmation and said I was “inspired” to write it.

Just so you’ll know – in the spirit of I Peter 4:11 – I frequently pray that God will speak through me when I blog. It is frightening to me that blogging reaches so many people.

But I had to ask myself: if I was inspired to write the things I’d been writing, was my inspiration coming from the right source?

I decided it was time to back off and see if my spiritual zipper was open.

I started posting a series on the Holy Spirit that I had taught as an adult elective class last summer at my church. It was probably too long for most folks who read my blog to get into; and I apologize for that. Sometimes you post things on your blog mainly to benefit yourself, and this was one of them.

Because – like my pal Fajita – I’ve been feeling compelled to tackle some things that are on my heart, and I didn’t want to get taken to the woodshed by someone whom the Spirit had truly inspired.

Chief among the things I’ve wanted to address: the correctors. The usual suspects I mentioned above. The “anti-everything-but-up’s”, as folks called ’em when I was a kid. I used to read their sites for entertainment; for a good chuckle and a snort and a shrug.

Having dipped way too far in their mindset – and, thankfully, having held most of my silence – I’ve had to realize that these folks probably originally started with a zeal and fervor for the Word, for serving the Lord and helping maintain the purity of His church and its doctrine (as they perceived it). Just like me, they’ve gone too far. Way, way, way too far.

Someone needs to call them back. The brother who was willing to converse with me about the Affirmation showed me how it can be done.

So I just want to ask some of the questions that I think need answering before any of us dip into the venom and start shooting the darts:

A Brother Who Sins Against You: Matthew 18:15-20 – Jesus tells us, if anyone sins against us (or has something against us), “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Does it say start by writing him (or her) up in a bulletin or post it on the Internet? Or even by sending a private letter? Does it not say “go”? Is it legitimate to say this doesn’t apply to us if a brother has sinned against God instead of us? Jesus continues, “If he listens you have won him over.” Does He say, “if he reads”? Or does it guarantee that you’ve won him over just by going to him? Obviously not; the next verse says “if he does not listen, take one or two others along” and he quotes Deuteronomy 9:15 about the need for two or more agreeing witnesses. Then if he refuses to listen (not “repent!” – it just says “listen!”) tell it to the church, and if not then, treat him like he doesn’t belong. (Literally “as a pagan or tax collector.” And wouldn’t we, as Christians, still owe it to a pagan or tax collector to continue praying for their souls?

This seems to be a four-step process when carried to the extreme. Have we been guilty of skipping a step or two or three?

Has anyone ever followed this advice from Jesus? Except for Priscilla and Aquila? In Acts 18:24-31 (while Paul is out of town), Apollos comes to Ephesus and speaks accurately about Jesus. He isn’t an evil man with bad intentions. He’s just not up-to-date doctrinally; he only knows about John’s baptism. Aquila and Priscilla don’t seem to embarrass him in the synagogue where he’s teaching – or reduce his powerful influence; they invite him to their home to explain to him the way of God more adequately. Isn’t that the essence of …

Speaking the Truth in Love: Ephesians 4:11-16 – This passage speaks of building each other up; of preparing God’s people for works of service; of maturing together. Admittedly, it is not talking specifically about correcting others, but it is speaking generally of dialogue and communication in love. Is it loving to condemn or rail against someone we don’t even know because we disagree with them, doctrinally or otherwise? Is that “tough love” – correcting them from a safe distance – because of our concern for their soul? Is it loving to call to witness every infraction that person has ever committed? Is that what’s meant by …

Maintaining the Spirit of Unity in the Bond of Peace: Ephesians 4:3 – Does it cause peace to air the laundry of others in public -dirty laundry or clean? In publications which get passed around? On the Internet, where anyone can read it? Is that, as in the previous verses, being completely humble and gentle; patient, bearing with one another in love? Is that the spirit of …

The Golden Rule: Luke 6:31 – If others determined that we were in the wrong, would we want them to treat us the way we’ve been treating them? Do we even have the right to judge them?

Judging Each Other: Matthew 7:1-3 – Are actions being judged? Or people? In Luke 12:57, Jesus suggests, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” If people are being judged, are we willing to be judged by the same standards? If actions are being judged, is it necessary to involve names called out publicly? Since some might justify the practice by scripture, let’s examine a few of those who are called out by name there:

Is anyone in the fellowship of believers today guilty of anything approaching the level of sin these people were committing in the church of century one? The book of Galatians, addressed to all of the churches in that region and very corrective in nature, only “calls out” as a bad example Peter’s hypocrisy; as an example of the racism affecting Galatian churches. No one else is corrected by name. As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that letters in which a local troublemaker might have been named and delivered to a church in that city were ever read in another city. They would not have known those people named!

  • Euodia and Syntyche: Philippians 4:2 They disagreed with each other, not the one who called them by name in his letter. Paul urged them to agree with each other. He didn’t dictate terms on what they should agree upon. He praised them as fellow workers and begged others in Philippi to help them whose names are in the book of life

Do we season our corrective missives with such pleas and compliments? Or are we condemnatory toward those with whom we disagree?

  • Archippus: Colossians 4:17: “Tell him to complete the work that the Lord gave him.” Possibly not even a rebuke; just an encouragement.

Are we as supportive in our corrections; are we encouraging rather than discouraging?

On the other hand, the New Testament is full of unnamed people who made bad choices. They might be described (a “rich young ruler,” for instance) but are not named. There was no point in embarrassing them. They might have turned to Christ later, but their stories were germinal to the point at hand. In the case of others, their actions and teachings were identified (“false teachers” and “false prophets”), but the reader of century one was left to identify them by their fruits. That was enough.

And that’s probably more than enough for one post. If I feel compelled to ask some more questions about the Old Testament scriptures that we correctors sometimes dredge up in defense of our ways, I might post some of them another time.

God is righteous, but he is also loving. My dad used to speak of God’s dual nature as His “arms” – His arm of justice and His arm of mercy; His arm of law and His arm of grace. If we concentrate on only one aspect of His divine nature, we preach a one-armed God.

Now I incite you. Are there people you know to whom you could go in person and confront them about overly-zealous corrective ways? Can you do so firmly, gently, lovingly, face-to-face, reasonably, tactfully, prayerfully? Can you do it with concern for their souls? Can you do it without judging or condeming?

It’s a tough calling. No wonder there are so many of us who get sucked into going too far with our corrective fervor.

And so few to call us back in line.

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11 thoughts on “Correcting the Correctors

  1. Keith, I had not gone back and read all that exchange between you and John Mark……..I wish I had kept up with it while it was going on. But, I just now went back and read it, and I didn’t perceive you stepping over any lines in your discussion with JM. I know that the REAL issue is how JM received it and NOT me, and it seems he was ok with this discussion you two walked thru together.I appreciate your heart that is so transparent. I could use some lessons!I also appreciate you calling us to keep our conversations above the gutter. The love I have for my brother and my relationship with him is MORE important than just about any “issue” we might choose to discuss. We forget that sometimes.God bless your future discussions,DU

  2. Wow, what to say. I feel compelled not to just sit here and say nothing. I don’t know if I am in the against everything crowd or if in my distaste for those who make it their business to “mark” others I too have become guilty. I repent. I almost want to take down my blog. Remove my self from the blog church, bury myself up to my neck. At the same time, you must know that your efforts to point out wrong have never been perceived in a spirit of hate. You are gifted with words and they carry the heart of one who does know what it is like to be hurt and doesn’t want to hurt others. Your words encourage others to see their own nose! I had missed the comments as well. But to my view you brought up things that need to be asked.Any of us with a history in “The chruch” should know that our history will cause many to read that or any document calling for tradition in a certain way. That is not wrong or subversive or even the comment I got this weekend from a post 3 months ago I was “tendentious”. know that you are loved brother. thanks for the words.

  3. Yep, the things that go on after we have commented and moved on! Keith, I love your heart and your writing. I think you are a great encourager and motivator. It does become tempting to voice an opinion when we feel ourselves invisible and untouchable, but I feel that you have generally spoken your heart and your convictions without trying to be mean spirited or negative.I for one will be around to read what thoughts come next. I appreciate your spirit in feeling repentant and am sure that is part of your overall appeal.Blessings.

  4. Keith,I think that is one of the toughest aspects of being a community of faith. A professor of mine once said that at times we are called to have a prophetic voice, but like the prophets it should be with tears in our eyes. In our zeal to be right, we often lose sight of compassion, gentleness, and humility. Thanks for your words.

  5. Keith –I read this post yesterday afternoon, followed all of your links and read everything that everyone wrote back and forth. Then, this morning, I read your post again, and again all of the links. I even went to John Mark Hicks’ blog and read some of it today. I only know all of you through blogging and what and how you write, so don’t have the full measure of who and how you REALLY are, I know. But, of all I’ve read and seen so far in the blogging world (which has only been the past four months)this post, to me, is probably the most important and best one – most REAL one – I’ve seen anyone write for a lot of reasons.I’m glad you wrote this because it shows your heart is in the right place in your searching and questioning things in this life and that you’re aware that what you write does make a difference for good or ill. A lot of people listen to everything you say, so you carry a heavy burden to make sure you speak with wisdom and goodness and, most of all, in love. I just hope you’ve written to John Mark Hicks about all of this. As David U said, “I know that the REAL issue is how JM received it and NOT me.” John Mark Hicks needs to know – ESPECIALLY today (read his post) – how you feel and what you’ve written here.And, I would strongly encourage ALL of you to go read John Mark Hicks’ blog of today (5/21) with the links about his son, his dad and his first wife because it will give you a profound look into who John Mark Hicks really is, as well. I believe the better we know each other, especially as fellow Christians, the more kind and loving we will be to each other as we discover how much more alike we all are than we now “distantly” perceive.Thank you so much, Keith, for having the insight and courage to write this post and to share it with everyone. I really appreciate it and I know everyone else does, too. Just make sure John Mark Hicks knows it, is all I’d suggest.

  6. Keith, thank you for sharing your heart and your introspective journey. It models something positive for all of us. You practice what you preach, my brother, in accordance with your blogspot’s title “Blog in My Own Eye.” You have demonstrated Christlikeness. I was never offended by you, my brother. I understand how we all hold deeply held convictions. I would not want it otherwise, and your blog represents the graciousness with which we can hold those convictions as well. Shalom,John Mark

  7. Keith – In his post this morning, JD wrote about “Unexpected Tears” and how God gave them to us as a gift to use more freely than we do for release and redemption. I must say tears are now flowing unexpectedly for me after just reading John Mark’s comment and what both you and he wrote in comments on his blog this afternoon.I’ve truly seen and experienced agape love in action today in this life.

  8. Ah. I guess I see more of where you are coming from now…and I guess that you are not going to understand what I’ve been saying. Keith, I don’t believe my attitude (not that you called my writing out, but you know about the discussion we’ve been having) has been at all like you’re painting it here. Yes, as I said on my blog, I believe there are times and places where naming names is appropriate–and to answer your question here, I do think that some of the names called out are guilty of very similar things to Alexander and Hymenaeus. They were leading people astray, Keith.However, that doesn’t mean that I think names should ALWAYS be named, you know? Of course we should work with one another in love.I don’t know how to make clearer my heart on the issue, so I’ll stop here. 😦 I think you are determined to see me and others who warn the church as angry, bilious people who are only trying to divide the church. It’s not true. Now, I don’t know all of the bloggers you’re talking about in this post, I’ll admit. But I know you misunderstood me in the Emergent discussion.

  9. No, Kristen – of all the places I went and all the messages I left, your blog was not a place where I felt things were horribly out of place, or even moderately. Gently out-of-place or out-of-order, maybe. You and I will probably disagree on lots of things, but what we agree on is unquestionably more important.When I was there, I obviously wasn’t irate enough to leave anonymous messages; I signed my name at < HREF="http://walkingcircumspectly.blogspot.com" REL="nofollow">Walking Circumspectly<>. I like visiting there.Please don’t ask me where else I went or what I said when I got there. I really have no respect for people who bomb, strafe and run in an unmarked aircraft like I did. It may have been out of genuine concern for souls – just as your comments and posts sound – but I said some angry things. They were on sites where no one is ever built up; just torn down and then spit upon and then condemned eternally.I may have “gone” to them; but it wasn’t in the right spirit. And I didn’t show my face.(To the person who asked by e-mail if there was a parallel between Keith among the Correctors and Anakin among the Sand People … yeah, you read between the lines pretty well.)

  10. Okay. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Glad to hear it. It was really disappointing to think that was the way you saw what I had to say–I’m glad it’s not.Thanks, Keith. I agree with you that what we have in common is very important!

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