With all the current events the church faces today and the deep, deep, divides in our midst, there is one question that needs to be asked: “what is the Biblical means of correcting brothers and sisters who are in error within the Church?”
We must ask ourselves what is our aim in bringing correction, and how do we handle our brothers and sisters when we find ourselves in gridlock and unable to come into agreement with each other?
PASSAGES TO CONSIDER:
2 Timothy 2:24-26 “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
This passage gives us great wisdom in knowing both “how” and “to what end” we deal with those who have been “taken captive by the devil to do his will”. We need to make sure that those we find ourselves at odds with are, indeed, at odds with God and have truly been taken captive by the devil to do his will; we must not mistake a brother or sister being at odds with our position as the same as being taken captive by the devil to do his will. If our opposition to a brother comes from strife within our own heart, then we must humble ourselves and seek peace with our brothers and sisters before our sin consumes us whole.
James 3:13-18 (esp. v18) “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show his works by his good life in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, do not boast and do not lie against the truth. This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Another passage that speaks volumes. Here we find that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (v18). The mightiest debater will loose the kingdom of God with each argument that he or she wins, but whoever is faithful to Christ will win the kingdom of God in peace!
1 Peter 3:8-9, 15-16 “Finally, be all of one mind, be loving toward one another, be gracious, and be kind. Do not repay evil for evil, or curse for curse, but on the contrary, bless, knowing that to this you are called, so that you may receive a blessing.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear. Have a good conscience so that evildoers who speak evil of you and falsely accuse your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”
Today we find that those who preach the truth may be falsely accused as much within the “church” as without; but this reality does not change how we minister to the Lord, rather, it forces us to purify how we minister to the Lord. It forces us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, or be given over to bitterness and strife.
Galatians 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
I suggest this passage requires us to acknowledge the “humanness” of the person that we are dealing with. By “humanness” I do not have in mind any humanist worldview, nor do I have in mind that we consider their sin and excuse it “because they’re only human” (which is a humanist viewpoint as well). Rather, I have Genesis 1:27 and 1 Peter 1:18-19 in mind; we must have God’s purposes in mind as we approach our brethren. We must never view our brothers and sisters as anything less than those made in the image of God and redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. To approach one another with any lower view is to de-humanize our brothers and sisters in Christ and insult the integrity of Christ who gave His blood as a ransom for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
To any brother or sister who thinks he or she is walking in Christ, and yet, who does not bear the burdens of his or her brethren, I ask you to reconsider whether or not you are fulfilling the law of Christ. We cannot fulfill the law of Christ if we do not “restore one another in a spirit of gentleness”.
2 Cor. 6:11 & 10:1 “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open!”
“Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ- who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, exhort you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called. With all humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another in love, be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
I believe it is with closed hearts and a spirit weary of unity that often dominates the affairs of the Church today. And for this my heart will never cease to mourn- as I believe Christ’s heart is broken and will not be satisfied by anything less than unity within the body.
1 Peter 3:1-4 (for a word to our beloved sisters in Christ) “Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, so that if any do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, as they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not let your adorning be the outward adorning of braiding the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine clothing. But let it be the hidden nature of the heart, that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
Isaiah 32:17 “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
I believe there is reason here to be forward-looking in our approach with our brethren. We do not minister for people with the present alone in mind, but with eternity in mind. So shall we see the necessity of “peace” when we begin to see eternity.
Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you.”
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS
Scripture teaches us not to be quarrelsome when correcting one another, but to do so in humility and with hearts wide open. This means that there is potential to be “hurt” when you come to someone with your heart wide open- they can wound you deeply- but our aim in correcting our brethren is not self-preservation, but rather, the edification of the whole body. The manner of our conduct towards the brethren we seek to correct should be in gentleness, patience, and peace.
I strongly urge careful and diligent consideration be given to the above passages.
We can never forget that “it is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure”; we must offer ourselves to the Lord as instruments of His healing, but never try to supplant Him as “the Great Physician”.
May this strengthen the hands that hang down who are weary from brokenness. And may God give wisdom as we learn to be peacemaker in a bitter and spiteful world so that Christ may be glorified according to His last petition. Amen!