Christianity 201

June 13, 2014

Attacking Others Comes from the Sinful Nature

Matthew 7:17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The portion in chapter 7 of Matthew’s precis of the teaching we know as “The Sermon on the Mount” begins with a section on judging and later leads to the above verses about the relationship between the goodness of the tree and the goodness of the fruit. The fruit is seen here as a viable indicator of the nature of the life on the vine, on the branch, or even at the root.

This week someone attempted to post a comment to an older article here which consisted of a copy-and-paste rant about things and people in the modern church that this person sees as evil.  Some people take this as a calling. I normally spot these a mile away and delete them, but for some reason decided to engage this one. Honestly, I’m not sure why, and there usually is not much to gain.

I’m not sure if the people who travel from website to website posting such things feel they are somehow serving God or helping God’s cause by serving as his arbiter of all truth (like the Pharisees of old) or if deep down they are fully aware that their motivation stems from a much darker place inside and that they are merely trying to cause trouble.

The targets are always the same: Modern worship music, Bible translations, megachurches, the Emergent Church movement, the Church Growth movement, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Pope Francis, Billy Graham, churches that allow children to take communion, churches that don’t permit children to take communion, topical preaching, pastors who dress casual, pastors who wear robes, and of course, Rob Bell.

The fruit of such ‘ministry’ is anger and division.

The reality is that many such rants — including a few of my own — really have their origin in the flesh, not the Spirit.

The idea of ‘fruit’ is part of a much larger agricultural motif found in scripture; another element would be the principle of sowing and reaping.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

The part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians that we call chapter six also — like the Matthew 7 portion — leads off with a section about judging, and each phrase is instructive.

  • Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. — in other words, restoration should be done graciously
  • But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. — the person trying to offer correction may easily fall into the same arena of error or failure
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — the picture is of helping others, not attacking them
  • If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. — there is an obvious potential toward spiritual pride
  • Each one should test their own actions — this is key; personal responsibility before criticizing others
  • ..without comparing themselves to someone else, — our motives in comparison are often just to try to make ourselves look better
  • for each one should carry their own load — this is so important: you weren’t made to spend all your time and energy engaged in correcting everybody else
  • Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. — Peterson translates this that those who correct and those who are the correct-ers should “enter into a generous common life” that correction is both given and received with appreciation and gratitude.

Going back to Matthew 7, Jesus says,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

Believe me, no matter who you are, myself included, the plank is there. If you’re married, just ask your spouse. If you’re a student, just ask your best friend or your parents. If you’re single, just ask the people you work with. We all have faults and we need to recognize that before we attempt to ‘fix’ everyone else.

To my commenter, I wrote this:

…[T]he problem is not that some churches are seeker-sensitive, the problem is that MOST churches are seeker-hostile. The problem is not that some churches are emergent, the problem is that MANY churches are stagnant. The problem is not that some churches are led by false teachers, the problem is that SOME churches are so busy bashing other churches that they really don’t teach anything. The problem is not that some churches have grown to become mega-churches, the problem is that TOO MANY churches are dying, and can’t see the reason why.

Addressing potential solutions is far better than decrying our personal assessment of the problems. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Scripture Leads us Back to the Right Path
The Righteous Judge is Non-Judgmental


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