I’m usually a pretty mellow guy. I guess when you reach a certain age you feel like you’ve seen and heard it all, the good and the evil. Maybe that’s why it takes a lot to get under my skin. One thing though that nearly always lights a fire under me is when I witness Christians tear down another brother or sister in the Lord. For example, this past Saturday at our men’s prayer meeting one gentleman mentioned how he had read on FaceBook a local pastor criticizing the leader of a large ministry for “watering down the Gospel message.” The individual stated that he elected to not get drawn into the drama of the debate. I couldn’t say the same thing – for I had been drawn deeply into said discussion – even warning the one who was spreading several unsubstantiated claims about the leader to tread lightly, for there is great spiritual danger in attacking God’s anointed.
Criticizing competing ministries has been going on since the founding of the Church. Even Jesus had to admonish His disciples to stop interfering with a person outside their inner circle who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.” Paul likewise castigated those in the Corinthian church, “there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.”
This age of social media has magnified the problem several times over. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t post a blog or refer to an out-of-context quote ripping apart Pope Frances or Joel Osteen or even some tradition-based legislators in Indiana. I pull out my now-thinning hair trying to understand why otherwise good Christians engage in “sowing discord among brethren.” Is this not one of the seven things the Book of Proverbs highlights as an abomination to the Lord?
For some I’m sure it’s just their lack of maturity – for I notice many young people and new believers just parroting the stances of their elders. This puts an even greater burden and responsibility on every supposedly mature believer, (the leader, the pastor, the educator, the elder) to hold his or her tongue or turn off their Ipad when they have nothing good to say about another with whom they may disagree.
It’s only natural for us to hold those in our own household up to a much higher standard than we do outsiders. That’s true of our Church household as well (and I mean the Big Church). Perhaps we should to some extent. But we need to ask ourselves, is it really necessary to attack both the message and the messenger? Do we do so because the other’s behavior reflects poorly on Christ, or is it because they have a larger pulpit or stage than we do? Is it because the other preaches a different Jesus or a false Gospel, or are we just personally dissatisfied with their method, one that doesn’t suit our tastes or expectations?
Jesus warned us to expect to see His enemies attack our most successful leaders and Christian spokespersons. “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” It’s just unfortunate that many unwise, perhaps naïve Christians for reasons I fail to fully grasp, end up on the same side as the agenda driven and media supported detractors of faith. When that happens, the devil can just sit back and watch the gullible believers who seem more than willing to do his work of “steal, kill and destroy” for him?