Want It Done Right? Or Not at All?
It’s not always easy to warn the unruly (1 Thes. 5:14), restore one overtaken in a trespass (Gal. 6:1-2), stop the mouths of the insubordinate (Titus 1:10-11), or withdraw from the disorderly (2 Thes. 3:6, 14). In a similar fashion, it is a real challenge to contend for the faith and preach the word in a way that convinces, rebukes, and exhorts, both in season and out of season (Jude 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:2). To proclaim the whole counsel of God requires both courage and a considerable amount of judgment (Acts 20:27). In fact, the difficulties involved in these things probably make it impossible for anyone to perform them all perfectly on a consistent basis, but since they are commanded aren’t we expected to try our best to do them? And do them well?
If we are committed to the two greatest commandments we will appreciate the necessity of warnings, discipline, sound teaching, etc., yet we sometimes fall short in these areas. Why? Why do we sometimes not preach things that need to be preached? Why do we sometimes seek to delay having to deal with erring Christians? Why is church discipline much rarer than disorderly behavior? Various answers could be given, but one key factor may be the things we come to expect when we attempt to deal with a difficult situation or address a challenging topic.
“Bro. White said you talked to him the other day about his attendance and he thought you were rude. I know our attendance is important, but you know he’s had a lot of family problems to deal with lately and I’m not sure this was a good time to talk to him.”
“Why are you elders in such a rush to withdraw from Sis. Brown? After all, a few years ago Sis. Green was in a similar situation and you showed a lot more patience with her.”
“Don’t get us wrong, we don’t object to lessons on modest dress—we just don’t draw the modesty lines where Bro. Black draws them.”
While all of these can be legitimate objections or concerns and everyone involved should welcome suggestions and constructive criticism, too often they do not reflect a desire to see rebuke, restoration, discipline, preaching, etc. done better; instead, they reflect a desire for generic preaching with little application, no real discipline, and doing very little, if anything, to deal with sin within the church. It may be that this kind of thinking originated out of the concerns some had with the genuine mistakes they observed in others, for it is a reality that through the years some preachers have become lawmakers instead of preaching God’s law and few elders have always been consistent in their dealings with the disorderly. Add to this the fact that among those dealing with the unruly, most would admitthere have been times when they failed to maintain the spirit of gentleness. Yes, all of this has been done improperly at times, but we must have the spiritual maturity to realize that abuse does not justify our rejection of things God has commanded His people to do.
If you have suggestions for how these things can be done better, please share them with those involved in both seeking to prevent sin and restore the erring, for very few don’t want to do them in the best way possible. But if you have been critical because you don’t believe these things should be done, please go back and read again the passages listed in the first paragraph. And finally, if you have been attempting to heed the previously mentioned instructions about how to deal with sin among God’s people, then do not grow weary while doing good. There may be naysayers, but this is expected of us by our Lord and desperately needed by our brothers and sisters.
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.