As a pastor with a young internet ministry, you can imagine i read a LOT of things. Some I agree with, some I do not, but I still read it to know what it says. As a self-identified Berean, I try to see what the scripture really says about the topic that I am reading or researching. This activity is not for the young in faith or those who are faint of heart, I think.
In all my reading, I usually see a lot of people that are angry. Some support [insert idea here] and some condemn [insert same issue here] as anathema heresy, like Paul did in Galatians 1 regarding those that preached another Gospel than he did (and we know Paul got it right, or it would not have been retained in Scripture). As I read through the…well, stuff…I get the sense that agreeing to disagree is a lost art or something. I have a lot of friends that I don’t agree with their theology, but I know from their fruit and their changed lives, and their joy, are Christians. Okay, okay, before you start to stone me, hear me out.
These are people, some of whom were saved when I personally witnessed to them, that do not live where I do so that we can fellowship together and teach each other. Their hermeneutics (how they interpret things in Scripture) and mine do NOT agree. Their positions on things like the “harpazo” event Paul talks about are NOT the same. I am unashamed of having premillennial views on things. I know others that have amillennial views on things. We agree to disagree agreeably. Why? well, on my part, it is because I hope to restore them to faith rather than have people believe what is wrong, and I think they have the same mind about me and my doctrine.
And here is the scripture on the issue:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
Galatians 6:1, NASB
We covered this in the Saturday Bible Study I teach where I fellowship when we studied Galatians (notes here). When you catch someone in what you see is a fault, you need to gently restore them to the right path in love. So far so good, right? So how is the vitriolic invective I am kind of forced to read through gentle or restorative? You know, I do get the need to stand against clear heresy and its propagation. But even that must be done in a spirit of gentleness. I know, I know, I hear you…Jesus flipped tables in the temples and beat people with a whip made out of curtain cords because of sinful commerce in His Father’s House. Look, you can do that – and you have stopped the (supposed) heresy. Good for you. How many lives were damaged and how many people will I now have to give pastoral counseling to because of your actions?
That word for “gentleness” in Greek is πραΰτης (prautēs), and it is from the same root as Jesus used in Matt. 5:5, where he says the “meek” (Gk. πραΰς, praus) shall inherit the earth. The root in Mt. 5:5 is closely related to humility (in word and concept), and according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, is the fruit of power. It says (and I can confirm by observation that a man is “meek” or “gentle” because he cannot help himself, but if you ask me, nothing is further from the truth. Vine’s notes that Jesus was meek because He had all the resources of God at his command. My thinking is that this makes meekness or gentleness great power under perfect control. Further to your table-flipping exercise, how was that in any way restorative?
You know, it isn’t like you’ve never erred, if you’re honest with yourself. Were you shouted down or roundly scolded publicly and booed? I hope not! You can be wrong like the rest of us. You probably are on a regular basis if you’re anything like me – it’s part of how I get to right – learning from mistakes while people are patient with me, over and over. Don’t we owe our brothers and sisters in Christ the same?
Please understand, it isn’t my intention to be confrontational here (sometimes you have to be, and there is proper procedure for that). I am simply putting it out there that none of us have the corner on truth, and to persecute others with hostility and prejudice like only we are right will only lead us to trouble with people, and ultimately with the Lord. I don’t want that for anyone. Please, if you’re reading this and you fit that bill, consider prayerfully Galatians 6:1-2. If I’m wrong here, I’m willing to be corrected, but I don’t think I am, based on what the Lord has prompted me to think about this scripture. I appeal to you as a dying man to others that are dying – practice some gentleness, some patience, some love, and some humility when you address others about their doctrines or hermeneutics. Someday, the shoe may be on the other foot. Unless you’re Jesus. Then You get a free pass.