Thursday, April 16, 2009

CONFRONTING OTHERS - WHAT'S THE PURPOSE? humiliate, win an argument, pontificate - or to restore, reconcile and fulfill the law of Christ

Pastor John Piper also has an excellent article on this very issue. I commend it to you highly.

Behold my Servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
-Isaiah 42:1-4

It is easy to swing a hammer at another Christian you might disagree with. It comes all to naturally to us. It doesn't take much effort or thought to bury someone on a blog or website. Even if we are 100% in the right, it doesn't demonstrate Christlikeness to simply wind up and let the hammer strike the anvil of the soul of another to show them how much we are right. But it does draw the readership, the hits to our site explode, and our words will spread through the blogosphere at amazing speed. And all under the noble guise of: "I am just standing up for the truth."

I know about this tactic first hand, for I say to my shame I was really good at it. I enjoyed it. I justified it and clothed my stinging words biblically and theologically. I mixed careful - thorough research with biting sarcasm and a touch of irreverent humor. I belittled my oppenent to make his claims look foolish; did the necessary homework on most everything they had preached or written on a given topic; and at the end of the day usually won the argument. People applauded me; cheered me on; and even thanked me.

But I was very wrong in doing so. I may have been on the right side on most issues - but I was dead wrong on the methods. I've seen this of late again with some other blogs; it reminds me of how wounding my pen had become a thing to behold.

"If the tongue is a fire,
the Internet is a nuclear bomb; 
and blogs, if wrongly used,
are the radioactive waste 
that endangers us all."
-Pastor Scott Thomas, Director of Acts29

Beloved, truth wielded in love takes time and care to communicate. Strong doctrine and theological conviction spoken pastorally for the restoration of another and their edification, encouragement and exhortation must be bathed in prayer to heal. Confronting another who has a blind spot in their life and ministry takes humility, grace, gentleness, patience and forbearance to guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We must remember that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Word, and the Lord Jesus Christ in sanctification that will conform us to Himself. "The Lord loves those whom He chastens..." But it is He who does the chastening beloved; and may God convict us all if we try to assume that role that only belongs to Him alone.

Should we speak boldly for the truth, contend for the faith, and champion the gospel? Absolutely! Should we encourage each other to love and good works? Yes! Should we plead with others with tears to turn and repent if we see them heading down a wrong path? Unquestionably! But let us do so with self-sacrificial love, reverence for God and respect for one another. May we do so abandoning anger, wrath, slander, gossip, bitterness and malice. May we not strive to just be right, win an argument, publicly champion an issue, and on our blogs try to one up each other by tearing each other to pieces in the combox turning someone's life, ministry, and failings into blogging sport for the week. 

Who do we think we are? Have we so quickly forgotten our own redemption and daily sanctification? Have we forgotten that none of us have arrived at this thing called gracelife? Have we forgotten the depth of our own depravity and the daily work of the Spirit in our lives? Then shouldn't we be willing to extend a severe mercy to others that we ourselves have had extended to us? And to do so without condoning the sin, but still walking with and loving the sinner with Calvary love? 

The patriarch of his time, the Apostle Paul, when confronting a younger Timothy on some real concerns about life and doctrine, did so not with a hammer, but with the heart of a pastor. He ministered to him; he didn't malign him.

May we seek another's restoration, reconciliation, and repentance to see them useful for the kingdom; for the furtherance of the gospel; for the benefit of His church; and for the glory of God as a testimony of His unfailing love and fathomless grace.

IOW beloved, don't be like me; but strive to be like the Lord Jesus and reflect His character to each other and as a witness to a dying world.

To that end, I commend to you the following words of one of my favorite Puritan divines - Thomas Watson. Here are a few quotes from him on the ministry of our Great Physician, Jesus Christ the Lord to us in our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. May they encourage you as they have myself today.
"Christ heals with more ease than any other. Christ makes the devil go out with a word (Mark 9:25). Nay, he can cure with a look: Christ's look melted Peter into repentance; it was a healing look. If Christ doth but cast a look upon the soul he can recover it. Therefore David prays to have a look from God, 'Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me' (Psalm 119:132)."

"Christ is the most tender-hearted physician. He hath ended his passion but not his compassion. He is not more full of skill than sympathy, 'He healed the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds' (Psalm 147:3). Every groan of the patient goes to the heart of the physician."

"Christ never fails of success. Christ never undertakes to heal any but he makes a certain cure, 'Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost,' (John 17:12). Other physicians can only cure them that are sick, but Christ cures them that are dead, 'And you hat he quickened who were dead' (Eph 2:1). Christ is a physician for the dead, of every one whom Christ cures, it may be said, 'He was dead, and is alive again' (Luke 15:32)."

"Christ is the most bountiful physician. Other patients do enrich their physicians, but here the physician doth enrich the patient. Christ elevates all his patients: he doth not only cure them but crown them (Rev. 2:10). Christ doth not only raise them from the bed, but to the throne; he gives the sick man not only health but also heaven."


Dave Miller said...

This is a quality post!

Dave Miller said...

And I didn't mean that last comment to sound like I am surprised!

John said...

ahhh....a breath of fresh air

Anonymous said...

Thank-you so much for these humble and challenging words.
I pray we can all capture the heart of this and become more like Jesus. esse quam videri - to be rather than to appear

Tom said...

Good words. Thanks, brother.

R W S said...

Words of sound wisdom. May we keep this ever in mind when in disagreement.Very edifying ,Amen.

~Mark said...

I do it because honestly, it is such a rare treat for me to meet "along the way" people who say they are Christians who have a solid grasp of Christianity that the opportunity to have a fellow soldier fully armed is a deep blessing to my heart and also puts them in a better position to please God and walk fully in Him.

graceb4me said...

I praise God for your humilty on this topic, Campi.
Makes me weep to think of all the times I have been uncharitable in my speech.

cyd said...

"Beloved, truth wielded in love takes time and care to communicate. Strong doctrine and theological conviction spoken pastorally for the restoration of another and their edification, encouragement and exhortation must be bathed in prayer to heal."

Exactly. Slicing and dicing is easy; grace takes concerted effort.

Steve, it is so encouraging to see the Lord working here - this post is great! Fresh air, indeed!

Dave Crawford said...

Steve, thank you for your comments. They are helpful, timely, and overwhelmingly needed. Thank you for not mentioning specific blogs in this post. Some may want a greater level of specificity, but to do so would completely undermine your point. God's grace is evident in your words.

Rick Frueh said...

I am truly blessed, Steve, in the recent work of grace God has done in your life. I was accomlished in demeaning and caustic rhetoric at one time so I know firsthand the fleshly satifaction that is derived from such behavior.

I never considered you nearly the most obvious example of that, however God is to be praised for such a public confession and a exhortation for Christlikeness.

Humble love for others while still forcefully presenting what God has shown us will always be a spiritual challenge. Some brothers in other "camps" have been appreciative of my reading and commenting on your blog. I continue to consider you a genuine and fervent follower of the Lord Jesus who I am attempting to humbly follow as well.

Praise Our Sanctifier!

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright least you're not like that tax collector.

Anonymous said...

I do believe this is an important message, to speak the truth in love. There is a time when we are not to be timid, and we are to always stand up for truth. It is so hard to balance love, truth, and correction. I find that many people are feeling backed in a corner. Confronting leadership is most difficult. I have no degree in theology. I am supposed to respect my leaders and submit to them. We personally felt great despair and saddness when confronting and didn't really know how best to go about it. Leadership eventually made it sound like we overblew everything or outright lied. We actually put our concerns in a letter so we could really say exactly what we intended to say. This was still misinterpreted. I will say our slip ups have come after confrontation, when we were talking to others who agreed with us, when it's easy to label and name call.

donsands said...

"Should we plead with others with tears to turn and repent if we see them heading down a wrong path? Unquestionably! But let us do so with self-sacrificial love, reverence for God and respect for one another." -Campi

Tears are good. I don't have enough for others. Bitterness won't let the tears flow.
And even if there not literal tears, at least a heavy heart of sadness, and a prayerful soul for others who fall, or are in error.

I am learning to be grateful for my "by grace alone" salvation. And then I am able to pluck some splinters from other's eyes; or even a two by four sometimes.

The Church needs to walk that fine line that you have posted here Steve.

Darrin said...

Steve, praise to God for what He has done.

There is also the other option Christians often take, which is simply to avoid believers they disagree with or who make them feel uncomfortable. This is problably even more of an issue in the "real world" (non-internet relationships).

How important to remember that love is best expressed through gracious interaction, not through either undue harshness or avoidance! In our modern "every man is an island" mindset, where isolationism and self-centeredness appear to be growing, this may be important to keep in mind.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Steve, for a very timely post. I have been increasingly concerned over the tone of a number of blogs lately. I even emailed the author of a popular watchblog a few weeks ago, calling into question the constant use of insulting terms and labels for those being disagreed with, criticizing hair color or whatever. I simply do not see the need for it, nor do I see how the oil of repentance can flow in such cases. As well, when those who do not know Christ view these cutting deliberations, what must they say? The blog owners response to me was to disagree and inform me that the use of cutting sarcasm and irreverence is a biblical paradigm and has a useful purpose. It certainly may on occasion, but it appears to have become more of a general practice than an occasional and thoughtful event.

May God grant us the wisdom to see where we all would be without his grace.

Alice said...

Awesome post. Thank you.

Bhedr said...

Amen. I often think of Mike Banta's song. He is the guitarist for Don Francisco. It goes something like this, "Avenging angel, warrior for truth, you may win the battle, but you'll lose the war."

It really hit me, when I heard that line. I am really not much different from you brother at times and it is easy to quickly draw Peter's dagger and cut off the ears of any hearer on any given day when not walking in the Spirit and then try to justify it because we are right about the truth. I have learned much from this blog over the past almost 4 years now. May God continue to richly bless you brother with this soul prosperity that He is abundantly pouring out on you and may we all be teachable defenders of the faith.

Grace upon grace,


SJ Camp said...

To AllWonderful comments so far. Thank you for these very encouraging and edifying words.

by His grace alone...

Anonymous said...

Steve, remember when we were friends? Well, now I love you even more for the convicts in this post!

I've been thinking a lot about this very topic lately. I've even thought about revamping my site. I really appreciate what you've written here. Very edifying.

Grace brother,


Darrin said...

Mark, are you calling Paul and Watson convicts?

Seems kind of mean-spirited.

But seriously, thanks Steve also for posting that Piper link. Some very good thoughts there too.

lyn said...

Well said!
It is somewhat confusing concerning some who post on other sites, belitting those who oppose them or suggest repentance. Then, they post here and butter would melt in their mouths.
May God be merciful to us all as we fight the good fight in unity, with love for one another.

Wendy said...

Thank you for this. After reading much today that has made me grieve the condition of the Body of Christ, this served to remind me of the steadfast hope we can have in the power of the gospel.

donsands said...

"..who post on other sites, belitting those who oppose them or suggest repentance. Then, they post here and butter would melt in their mouths."

That's a strange accusation. Would you mind expounding a bit? It would help me. It seems there's something there I'm missing.

Coram Deo said...


I seem to have been HTML challenged on my prior two attempts to comment!

At any rate, have you read MacArthur's recent series on THE RAPE OF SOLOMON'S SONG wherein he directly, sternly, and publicly rebukes Mark Driscoll?

In light of your missive here, and of MacArthur's handling of this particularly contentious and situation what do you believe the MacArthur's purpose is in confronting Driscoll in this manner?

I'd really like to see an in depth "Camp On This" treatment of this very timely and important subject since you've posted material recently about your reconciliation with Driscoll, and your obviously heart-felt convictions about the importance of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I'm also fully aware of your deep admiration and fondness for - and friendship with - John MacArthur so please understand that I am in no way trying to place you into a position where you're forced to "play both sides against the middle", rather I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts on the subject matter since you seem to be so very close to it.

The Rape of Solomon's Song Part 1The Rape of Solomon's Song Part 2The Rape of Solomon's Song Part 3THE RAPE OF SOLOMON'S SONG PART 4I'm looking forward to your response.

In Christ,

lyn said...

To Donsands~ I attempted to contact you through your blog, but you have no e-mail address.
I will tell you this, I was not referring to you! I would also ask that we continue to pray for one another and cry out for true genuine humility.
God bless you Donsands.

Vicki said...

Timely post for which I'm deeply grateful. It seems in the blogosphere, even when we're gentle with others, it's all too easy to get slammed for speaking the truth at all. Yet even when we're "right" it's the Holy Spirit's job to convict & restore. Takes a load off me:-) Appreciate you, brother.

Rick Frueh said...

To be in a place where you strongly disagree with someone and yet desire to respectful and humble, while being doctrinally confrontational, is a difficult and delicate journey. You may be criticized for being too soft/compromising or being too harsh/argumentative.

It is much easier to pick a side and defend it without having to worry about tone etc., and to allow the rightness of your issue to obscure the wrongness of some other issues concerning being a follower of Christ.

There are no easy answers, and doctrinal debates and corrections among believers must reflect the complete essence of Christ or else we all run the risk of using carnal weapons to defend issues of the Spirit.

I have usually found John MacArthur's dealings with such issues to be dispassionate and measured, and without unnecessary hyperbole or caustic rhetoric, even when I disagree.

Coram Deo said...


The Lord has caused me to realize that far too often I've been guilty, guilty, guilty of being unnecessarily graceless to the point of becoming caustic in many of my blog endeavors; an error for which I bear full responsibility and no small amount of shame. By His sanctifying power of repentance unto forgiveness His Spirit is helping me to shake off that old man.

But - as unfortunate as this may sound - at least I was consistently graceless.

But you really puzzle me.

I've read your comments all over the blogosphere quite literally for years and you seem to morph seamlessly from persona to persona depending upon your audience.

At your own blog you frequently come across as measured and passionate, at Mike Ratliff's blog and here you typically come across as thoughtful and generally congenial towards the local Calvinist/Reformed denizens, yet over at CRN.Info and other places you come across as churlish and peevish, often taking gratuitous ad hominem swipes at the the very same types of folks to whom you're friendly to their cyber-face.

I want to stop short of calling this sort of behavior hypocrisy, but it does seem inconsistent at best. Do you care to offer an explanation of this seeming dichotomy? Maybe I'm the only person who sees this and it's simply born of my own imagination?

In Christ,

Rick Frueh said...

"Do you care to offer an explanation of this seeming dichotomy?"

I guess I do not belong to one particluar "camp", so that releases me to see good and bad in all camps.

As far as my tempored remarks on Mike's blog regarding Calvinists, I attempt to honor Mike's blog (as I do Steve's) because I am aware of their doctrinal persuasion.

I am often disagreed with, sometimes strongly, over at crninfo. I do not consider being multi-perspective as being hypocritical, I consider it being discerning. Case in point, I almost always make my objectional feelings known about Mark Driscloll's methodlogy at other blogs which is met with less than
enthusiastic approval.

I have not changed my view on the Driscoll issue, however I clearly see the Biblicaly positive impact of Steve's post that deals with tone and attitude.

I openly admit to being sometimes hypocritical, although I attempt not to be. I do reserve the right to strongly disagree with brothers in the reformed camp but I will refrain from doing so on their blogs. To me that is showing respect.

This post:

was on last Monday and it was generated from one of Ken's posts which he and I corresponded about. I can see where on the surface I may be confounding, and I take criticism from different segments of the blog nation when I step off their particular reservation.

I have enjoyed many of your posts and comments, and like you to mine, some not so much. I appreciate your measured and gracious overture, though. I will continue to be consistently inconsistent. :)