Watch Out for People Who are Running to the Head of the Table

Luk 14:10-11 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. (11) For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I am suspicious and pessimistic when it comes to jumping up and down for joy when some Christian leader announces that the lights have come on for them and they are launching into efforts to expose abuse in the church. We see this fairly regularly of late. The “nouthetic counselors” (now the ACBC) are suddenly hosting conferences on dealing with domestic abusers, calling us all to come to them to learn. We will see similar actions among the Southern Baptists now, and we have seen it before in the CCEF crowd.

One lady stated it very, very wisely and precisely recently on a website I visited. She said, regarding a Christian celeb type leader who has launched into the issue of abusers in the church,

He is looking which way the parade is going and jumping in front. So he appears to lead. A farce.

Bingo! Nailed it. Rather than going to the back of the line, humbling himself, admitting that in his ignorance he has added to the oppression of victims and enabled abusers, suddenly here he is in the lead! An expert, you know. But our Lord told us plainly – go to the back of the line. Don’t seek to be first, else you will find yourself humiliated.

So here for many, many years, we have had Christian counseling organizations, Christian authors, pastors, seminaries and mega/happening churches, in their ignorance and arrogance (and far too often in their willful allying with evil) refusing to hear us. By “us,” I mean the few authors and blog writers and a pastor here and there (and of course the victims themselves) who have been speaking out like voices crying in the wilderness, only to be dismissed as ignorant theological hicks who know nothing. Now, these very same groups who have refused to listen and who have hardened themselves against the pleas of the victims for so long, suddenly, here they are jumping into the head of the parade!! Why? We are quite justified in questioning their motives. Frankly, I think most of them have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar of abuser-enabling and victim-oppressing, and they are suddenly acting as if they have been experts “in the know” all along.

I suppose to some extent we should acknowledge the Apostle Paul’s take on such things:

Php 1:14-18 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (15) Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. (16) The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. (17) The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. (18) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Yes, we rejoice that the issue of abuse in all its evil forms hiding in the church is increasingly being addressed. But like the Apostle Paul, we still can realize that some of these sudden “experts” are motivated by selfish, self-glorifying, ambition. And to that extent, I do not and will not trust them.

Shunning is Not Always Wrong

Many times I have heard people criticize churches and Christians for “shunning” someone. And in many of those cases the criticism is valid because the person being shunned is in fact a victim of some evil which the church refused to confront. Instead, they blamed the victim and threw them under the bus.

Somehow the idea of “shunning” someone has become something that is thought to be always evil and wrong. But that is not so. The Bible is quite plain that there are people with whom we are to have nothing to do. People we are to shun. Here are some scriptural examples:

1Co 5:11-13 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. (12) For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (13) God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Rom 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (18) For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

I could go on citing more, but this certainly should suffice to prove that the Christian is to keep away from, avoid, and not even eat with certain people. Namely and especially, people who claim to be Christians but who are walking in evil and therefore are servants of the devil.

This idea that shunning is always wrong and evil in itself is something that is often used to justify keeping the wicked in the church, enabling them in their evil. But to do so is to refuse to obey the clear commands of the Lord. For myself, I simply cannot understand why any real Christian would want to continue in fellowship with a counterfeit believer who has crept in among the brethren to destroy and harm. We are light in the Lord. Why would we want to associate and be bound together with darkness?

Notice once again (you see it in the verses quoted above) that it is not the average, normal unbeliever that is the most serious threat to the church, though of course we are not to be intimately connected with them either. I count numbers of unsaved people as my friends. But I wouldn’t marry one. I socialize with them (as Jesus ate with sinners) but I realize that we are not at all on the same page when it comes to ultimate truths of God’s Word. Nevertheless, the greatest evil, the most wicked and dangerous person, comes to us disguised as a sheep, yet is a ravenous wolf. If someone claims to be a brother in Christ but in fact bears evil fruit as a regular pattern of his life, then that is the person to shun.

So, yes, I shun certain people. Our church shuns certain people. And in doing so we are obeying our Lord’s command.

The True Christian Forgives as Jesus Forgives – True, and False

This past week my wife and I were driving up the interstate when we saw a large billboard that said:

Real Christians Forgive Like Jesus

The sign also included a Scripture reference,

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

This is an example of not only misusing Scripture, but of dealing simplistically with a Bible doctrine that requires far more than a mere five words on a sign. And it is not harmless! Great damage is done by these kinds of foolish statements thrown out at people like cannon shots.

The pessimistic realist that I am, I suggest to you that I know what the message is that these sign preachers are throwing at us. “You don’t forgive like Jesus forgives. If you are a real Christian, then you must love your enemies (true). And this means that you must not seek justice for wrongs they have done you, you must strive to maintain relationship with them, and if you don’t do these things then you are not forgiving as Jesus forgives and it is doubtful you are a Christian at all.

Yes, Jesus prayed that His Father would forgive those who crucified Him. But a short time before He was put on the cross (see John 17) Jesus specifically said that He was praying for those the Father had given to Him, not for the whole world. Jesus knows His elect. And Jesus’ death on the cross at the hands of these people was an act of redemption and atonement for His own. Jesus, in other words, was unique. To make an across the board simplistic application of Jesus’ prayer for His enemies there on the cross to every single Christian in every single case subsequent to the cross is foolish.

But there is more.

How does Jesus forgive? Does He forgive everyone? Of course not. Check this out:

2Th 1:5-10 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

We could go on and on. The Lord does not forgive everyone. And yet these signboard preachers throw distortions of Bible truth at car after car motoring up the freeway, insisting that a real Christian forgives everyone no matter what. Offers the worst of them warm hugs and kisses. I ask you, is this what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels? Is this what the Apostles preached and practiced as recorded in The Acts and the Epistles? Of course not.

One final point (though I could go on and on).

Unsaved people see signs like this and do you know what they conclude? I know unsaved people. I know lots of them. Many are my friends. I know what they would have said if they were in my car when I went past that sign. “Christians are idiots and fools.” And you know what? People who claim to be Christians but who distort and pervert the Word of God like this are fools indeed!

Christians, true Christians, really do forgive as Jesus did. And more. We pray for God’s holy wrath and justice to break out upon the wicked and destroy them for their oppression of the widow and orphan. Yep –

Psa 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? (22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.