There’s an old joke out there that goes, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” If you say “yes,” you imply that you used to do it. If you say “no,” you suggest that you are still doing it. Obviously, the question may be where the problem lies. If you do not beat your wife, the question would not be relevant and certainly not fair.
“I hear Brother So N So holds this position,” that “School X teaches error on such and such,” and that “Congregation A is ‘off’ on that.” Too often, maybe based on a feeling that the source is credible, a person gullibly accepts the accusation at face value and even passes it along to others. Of course, some are very blatant and public in teaching things that are contrary to the Word of God. They loudly proclaim and proudly publish their false views, but the aforementioned innuendoes and intimations are an altogether different matter. Why these rumors and accusations get started is sometimes hard to pinpoint. Is it jealousy, misunderstanding coupled with indiscretion, meanness, or possibly something more benign? Writing about presumption last year, I urged the presumptuous to “substantiate before you propagate, and then only carefully and prayerfully” (https://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/the-problems-with-presumption/).
Solomon wrote that “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Prov. 22:1) and that “A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth” (Ecc. 7:1). While we are the primary stewards of our “good names,” others can tarnish it unfairly.
It is good to ask, “Do I know this rumor to be true?” Or, “Is it a matter of judgment and opinon with which I disagree, or is it truly a matter of doctrine and eternal truth?” Or, “Does the ‘reporter’ have an agenda that needs to be considered?” Or, “Why do I want to pass this along?”
“Slander” is a verbal offense that should not be in the Christian’s repertoire (Psa. 15:3; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1). That is “old man” activity! It is easy to besmirch someone’s character and reputation, but what a dangerous thing to do. May we bridle our tongues lest we set fires (Js. 3:3,6).
While we would be tempted to ask this of ourselves, that’s really not a very honest reflection or indication of a true answer. But, thankfully, there are several whom we can ask. Don’t miss the importance of their candor. Their answers are really the only ones that matter.
Ask the parents of the crying baby.
Ask the visitor who is sitting alone.
Ask the new family who moved here from another city.
Ask the drop-in whose clothing, hygiene, and general manner of speaking and appearance seems of “lesser” quality.
Ask the person whose race and color differs from the majority.
Ask the out-of-town visitors whose vacation or work brought them to services.
Ask the people you see and cannot decide whether they are visitors or members.
Ask the Lord and His inspired writers (Js. 2:1ff; Acts 10:34-35; Prov. 14:31; 17:5; 19:17).
Even if we have the reputation of friendliness, let us never be satisfied that we are “friendly enough” and let us never rest on our laurels. Our goal should be to surround every unfamiliar face with love and attention. I would far rather risk scaring someone off than failing to extend them the love of Christ!
Most people have very strong convictions, pro or con, about religious matters. Many who claim to be religious form opinions and draw conclusions with very little if any biblical consultation. How ironic is it to claim to follow God while ignoring and even rejecting His very revealed will?
Many religious people, church attenders and not, are guided by their feelings, desires, opinions, preferences, and consciences (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3; Prov. 14:12). Perhaps they have a favorite preacher or other religious figure they implicitly trust. Their religion may be submitted and subjugated to the message of the culture or even the media. It may be based on convenience and comfort. Throughout time, man has attempted to serve God on his own terms and based on what he thinks is right. Whether ignorantly or defiantly, he puts himself on a throne upon which only Jesus belongs (Mat. 28:18).
How long could religious error survive if potentially divided parties could lay aside personal interests and objectively study the sacred text? So often, the religious world is divided because of man-made doctrines and traditions. Instead of looking to the Bible to answer the important questions of time and eternity, men often come up with the answers they want and then go looking for Bible verses to support their predetermined views. Consider that some of the most popular religious ideas—salvation by saying the sinner’s prayer, premillennialism, speaking in tongues, women worship leaders, once-saved, always-saved, and instrumental music—are not practiced or believed based upon their being taught in Scripture but instead their being the beliefs and views of mankind. How thrilling it would be if we could unite every religious person in the desire to come to the text, the glasses of prejudice or sectarian beliefs removed, and let God tell us what to believe and how to live! That is possible, but it begins with each of us humble, sincerely asking, “What does the Bible say?”
One of the fond memories I have from my first local work was attending a gospel meeting in a tiny block building in York, Alabama, conducted by the late gospel preacher and teacher, W. Gaddys Roy. He was talking about authority that evening, and a member of a nearby non-institutional congregation took umbrage with some of brother Roy’s lesson. Particularly, the brother did not like the idea that eating in a church building was a matter of opinion. He thought it was a matter of faith, and his question for brother Roy was, “Where’s your authority to eat in the building?” Brother Roy said, “Where’s your authority for the building?” The brother pressed his point, but ignored brother Roy’s question.
Sometimes, we hear people asking “where is your authority?” for something when they have misunderstood that the Bible authorizes generically as well as specifically. In fact, a specific command will almost always authorize generically in some way. For example, we are commanded to sing in our worship. That leaves no room for “singing AND anything else” (like playing an instrument, beat-boxing, percussion, humming, etc.). Yet, we are authorized to do or use anything that expedites our obeying that command (like songbooks, overhead lighting, shape notes, singing in parts, a projector, a pitch pipe, etc.).
We may have strong feelings about something, but we must beware the tendency to elevate our opinions to the level of being a “faith matter.” If we make laws where God has not, we are as guilty of violating the will of God and challenging the authority of God as those who seek to generalize where God has specified. We may not like something or be uncomfortable with something, but we must be careful not to press our case too strongly. We must make sure we have Christ as the foundation of our objection. Otherwise, we have simply elevated our will to be on a par with or to exceed His.