Serving an international
Vol. 10 No. 9 September 2008
Joe Neal Pinion was a retired
friend who lives in
Early one afternoon, Joe Neal decided to go out to his garden and cut some okra for supper. He had just harvested a few pods from a stalk, when suddenly a red wasp flew down the collar of his shirt and started stinging him on the back. His reaction was immediate—kill the insect before it could injure him any further. However, in his fervor to slap the wasp, Joe Neal forgot that he was holding a knife and inadvertently stabbed himself in the process! While he did eventually kill the offender, he also inflicted a rather considerable wound in the exchange. Ironically, Joe Neal did more harm to himself with the knife than the wasp could have ever perpetrated. (He required medical attention in order to mend the trauma from his self-induced stabbing.)
I have often reflected on that little footnote in Joe Neal’s life. In my thinking, it serves as a sort of metaphor for what sometimes happens in congregations of the Lord’s people today. See if the following sounds familiar.
False doctrine (2 Peter
2:1ff) is introduced to a local body
of believers via the pulpit. The shepherds of said congregation
recognize the “sting”
of error and respond accordingly (Acts 20:28-31) as the Word enjoins
firm, and yet patient love (Acts 15:25a;
In the meantime, some over-zealous brethren, who do not even attend that congregation, feel compelled to “help” in the wasp’s extermination. In their desire to keep the body poison-free, these self-proclaimed “protectors” overreact to the wasp’s attack. It is not enough to quell the false teaching (Titus 1:11), they must also crush the false teacher with verbal assaults and personal attacks.
Unfortunately, the local body of believers is also slashed in the process. Faithful brethren are represented as “compromisers”; devoted Christians are labeled as “cowards” for not dealing more aggressively with error. Tragically, the exterminators mutilate the very body of members they are allegedly trying to help. By their malicious and caustic attitudinal “jabs,” they slowly bleed the life out of the church. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword…” (Proverbs 12:18a). To them, the sword of the Spirit is merely a weapon of destruction (read their bulletins and papers and observe the weekly/monthly preponderance of attacks and warnings), and the body is treated as though it were a medical student’s cadaver rather than a living, feeling entity.
Many times faithful
brethren turn toward more liberal and
unsound elements in the church because those who claim to uphold and
truth do so with such over-bearing, self-righteous attitudes. Stab!
As a result, faithful brethren begin to cower and recoil from the pain
repeated stabbings. While they hate false doctrine, they hold a mutual
for false practice. (You cannot “knife” an entire
congregation and say, “I love
you” at the same time,
Please do not misinterpret
what I am saying here; sometimes
certain limbs and organs must be “excised”
No, error in the church
must not be tolerated (Titus
1:10-13). Yes, false teaching and teachers are to be stopped (2 Timothy
2:14-18). Yes, Gospel preachers are to be bold (2 Timothy 4:2;
Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not
resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently
instruct…” (2 Timothy 2:24-25a NIV;