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Divisive people

If you look out on the web, you’ll find a whole category of bloggers (you know who you are) who are self-appointed “defenders of the truth.” Every religion has got them and Christians are no exception.   They feel it’s their job to expose the charlatans and heretics among us. They cite Bib…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
If you look out on the web, you’ll find a whole category of bloggers (you know who you are) who are self-appointed “defenders of the truth.” Every religion has got them and Christians are no exception.
 
They feel it’s their job to expose the charlatans and heretics among us. They cite Bible verses that instruct us to exercise discernment. People whose views don’t match up with their Bible verses get brought up on charges of heresy. 
 
But there is a problem with their method. Yes, we need discernment. We need to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff. The problem is, it’s very hard to “speak the truth in love” from the comfort of our living rooms a thousand miles from the human being whose views we disagree with.
 
Blog comment wars
If our calling card as followers of Jesus is the quality of our love, then we need to find ways to disagree while still loving. Fighting blog comment wars in the name of discernment does not do Jesus and his followers justice. Expressing negative views in snarky or sarcastic asides is just as bad.
 
I was reading a blogger this morning who was finding fault with Heidi Baker. He asserted that she didn’t make disciples. He used something she said as proof. Jesus said we should judge people by their fruit. So I want to ask, has this blogger critic ever flown to Mozambique and seen the fruit of Heidi Baker’s ministry?
 
From the safety of his computer screen in America, it’s possible to take one of her quotes out of context and bring her up on charges as a cult figure. But go to Mozambique (as dozens of our teams have) and you’ll see the discipleship school she and her husband Roland have founded. You’ll see how they carefully study the Scriptures. You’ll see the thousands of churches they’ve planted. You’ll hear the testimonies of blind people whose eyes were miraculously healed.
 
You may counter, “Well, the devil can pose as an angel of light.” But what if the fruit looks like Jesus? What if the fruit is love, changed relationships and changed communities? And are you willing to have your own fruit inspected first?
 
What to do with concerns
Let’s say God has given me concerns about another person, what should I do? How can I best help the body of Christ? Let me suggest that it’s not by writing a blog post. The best thing to do is to try to talk to the person who is in error or to the people to whom they are accountable.
 
In 2 Timothy 2:14, Paul warns against “quarreling about words.” He says,  “it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” The passage goes on to say, “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 2:25)
 
These guardians of the truth mean well, but their words ruin those who listen. Ultimately, their own fruit is not what they intend. They hope to protect the sanctity of the truth, but instead, they prove to the world that Christians are just as divisive as anyone else. Worse yet, they look like hypocrites who say that they stand for love, but whose actions don’t display love. They align themselves not with Jesus, but with his opponents, the Pharisees.
 
I have Christian friends who are divisive. If you were to inspect their lives, you would find a trail of broken relationships behind them. They mean well, but it’s likely they do more harm than good. I’ve been that guy sometimes and have repented. I’ve vowed to watch my words.
 
When they bury me, I don’t want people saying, “He sure was right a lot.” I’d rather they remark on how well I loved.

Comments (20)

  • Seth, this is so good. Thanks for having the courage and love to say something. It can be so easy to be a “couch critic” but truly, we only harm those who listen. For sure, and I speak for Chris and I both when I say this, we definitely will say of you: Wow, he loved us well.
    Proud to be in the family,
    Chris and Jenny

  • Again..more words of truth from this writer. I commend you for speaking the truth in love. I could sense love as I read it. It comforted me, actually. Thank you for your boldness. I can relate to this on many levels.

  • The medium is the message. I didn’t believe in tv either. Even books are questionable. It is hard to beat incarnation.

    Consider the gospel writers, after all the miracles are done, the blood is shed, the feet are washed and the boat rides and roads are tread is done (Acts, by luke a gospel writer), we have a memorialization, to do what?

    Wash feet, shedblood, trod roads,..

    What exactly is the Word of God?

  • Well stated…and yes, the last two sentences sum it up well. (Also, I may have been “that guy” just yesterday.)

  • Me gusta mucho the last line. That’s what its all about! He has loved us with an everlasting love, what happens when we love others in that same way?

  • I, too, have been that person a time or two. You are absolutely correct that it does more harm than good – to those we know are reading, as well as those we don’t know are reading it. Thank you for the reminder. Lord, help me to speak words of love, and write words of love and grace.

  • Do I know someone who’d not comment here because they also feel this is about them? Yes I do!

    Great blog Seth. You are too kind.

  • Amen Seth. I think sometimes people judge people like Heidi and Rolland or others because maybe they don’t understand what God is doing. We are called to love like Jesus, that is it, simple but difficul, right?

    We are called to be agents of reconciliation, ambassadors of grace, that which has been extended to us.

    I don’t want to be easily offended by moves of God because it doesn’t make sense to me or I don’t understand. I want to live my life marked by love, like you said, in the end I pray people would say about me, she loved well.

    I pray for the person who wrote the blog that God would break through his/her logic or religious belief. I would dare him to go and see what the Baker’s are doing for the Kingdom of God.

  • Thanks for shining light on this!

    I’m afraid sometimes it is ignorance that speaks out against things that we actually just do not understand (yet) and because we don’t understand them we think they are wrong or not of God and so must warn the world as was this case with Heidi Baker. She is familiar with persecution and suffering, it is sad when it comes from the “church”. But I have never seen a love flowing in someone’s eyes like that of Heidi Bakers!

    What we need is unity. John 17:20-21 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

    According to Jesus unity will show the world the Father sent the Son!

  • Thanks Seth. These are good words. Sometimes “awareness breeds discontent”. I suspect this entire arena is a “tension to be managed not a problem to be solved”. Love you….

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    Hey, you know what?, you sure do love a lot !! And your advice on these topics has helped me a lot.

  • This is SO good. I’ve been so bogged down by “truth keepers”. I see no mercy in the world of technology most days. It is beautiful and refreshing to see it come from your keyboard. I also want others to tell me how well I have loved, rather than how many “inconsistencies” I exposed.

  • I think those of us with a ‘prophetic edge’ especially need to guard against this very thing. I can remember from a very early age saying ‘Truth is my pursuit.’ And I was ‘redirected’ by Holy Spirit at one time to beware of my spiritual antennae being attuned to ‘goodness’ and not ‘truth.’ (That’s because I’ve mostly been an optimist who has sought to ‘draw out’ the good in people that they don’t even necessarily know is in them, but was erring by always ‘reading’ positive even when God was trying to alert me to be more discerning.) That being said, ‘truth’ without love is clearly revealed in the Bible as a dangerous weapon. Jesus Himself is identified as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but that is presented as Good News because it is wrapped in the package of sacrificial love.

    (P.S. Love your last 2 sentence paragraph.)

  • Having worked with the Baker’s from the beginning of their Mozambican ministry and through the years, one of the first things both Heidi and Rolland would say is “We aren’t perfect.” They don’t set themselves up as models for the church/Christian world, but today’s Christian’s do seem to follow the ways of the world and make ‘superstars’ and idols out of their speakers/ministers who are in a public arena. Knowing Heidi and Rolland, I think their first response to the ‘blog critic’ would be, “Oh yes, you’re right. We could do things much better. But we can’t do it without help. So, please come over and help us make disciples.”

    And I agree with you that it is always best to first go to the person, but I am also very aware that almost every Christian leader that falls says that one of the primary reasons they did was because they were not ‘accessible and accountable.’ Many of them have admitted to me in interviews that because they become ‘public figures’, it seemed necessary for them to have someone/or a number of someone’s managing the crowds for them. This makes sense as a wise administrative decision but they admit that it is dangerous too because it CAN (doesn’t have to, but can) lead to being further and further away from people being able to speak into their lives. They tell of being surrounded by people ‘protecting’ them from negative feedback, and it eventually feeding their ego to the extent that there were no ‘checks and balances’ in their lives.
    Was just reading today that one of the keys to healthy creativity is being in a place where criticism is allowed. Of course, not criticism out of a negative spirit, but out of a loving heart, and yeah, the wisdom to know the difference.

    So, yeah, that blog critic is most likely barking up the wrong tree and stirring up discontent rather than promoting/facilitating Jesus-style transformation, and though I am not defending that person by any means, it reminds me that we sometimes have unhealthy churches/ministries because they are setup without a known feedback channel.

    At the moment I’m visiting some friends who used to pastor a megachurch, and in asking them about how they dealt with the issue of not being ‘untouchable or unreachable’ but still being able to accomplish their purpose without every armside critic sidelining them, they told me that they set up the church with an accountability structure that was publicized so that if anyone had a concern, they knew who they could go to so that they were heard. And I know my friends really did want to grow in any areas they might be lacking- so I also think that sort of humility breeds health .

    That takes me full circle to your remark about being better known not for being right but for loving well – because these friends of mine were/are ‘disciples of love’ and I think partially why they’ve been known that way is because people feel loved who feel heard.

    Thanks for this blog – reminds me how passionate I am about wanting to see healthy thriving ministries and churches and understanding how we get there.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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