It is a commendable mixture of righteous indignation, conviction, and affection for the Lord and His church to want to answer all the critics, rebut all the troublemakers, defend all the reputations, and fight all the false teaching out there. Knowing how best to deal with the pot-stirrers or the novel-doctrine-peddlers can cause quite the consternation. Do we answer every allegation and oppose every little quibble? Are there times where the best answer is to simply ignore “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19) or those who attempt to “preach any other gospel” (Gal. 1:9)? That requires great wisdom and judgment as to the specific situations which arise, but it is clear that the Bible has given disciples the counsel to just let some things lie.
A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE: The Pharisees Of Matthew 15. These religious leaders elevated human traditions (1-2,6,9), made their own rules they bound others to follow or else (3-6), had heart problems (7-9), and spoke defiling words (11). They intimidated the disciples, who were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees (12). Jesus pointed ahead to the judgment that would determine the nature of their work (13), but counseled His followers to “let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (14). So often, those who strive and divide, as well as those swayed by them, experience the fruit of their work in this life. Others, unheeding of cautions and pleadings to the contrary, find out in the end (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24-25). While the Pharisees ultimately nailed Jesus to the cross, His view of their divisive tactics was to simply “let them alone.”
A POSITIVE EXAMPLE: Peter And John In Acts 5. Gamaliel, a respected teacher of the Law and member of the Sanhedrin Council, weighed in on the work of Peter and John, two faithful gospel preachers. He looked at past movements of those claiming to be someone, Theudas and Judas, and compared them to these followers of Christ. His advice, “stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-40). While we have no indication that Gamaliel’s advice is inspired, as Caiaphas did (John 11:49ff), it is hard to find fault with his logic. In the case of the apostles in Acts five, their plan and action was of God. In the case of the other two “leaders,” it was of men. Time typically tells. Inspect the fruit. Listen to the words. Watch the attitudes. Discern the actions demanded and urged. Examine it all in the light of carefully studied Scripture.
Apathy and indifference can lull us to sleep. The antagonistic or the agents of unscriptural change can both serve to wake us up, get us to reexamine our stand, get into our Bibles, and work to ensure our message and our methods are “by the book.” But do we have to accept every challenge and dare? Jesus once drew in the dirt in the face of those who demanded an answer from Him. There are some times when the best answer is silence. As for those who make demands of us? Sometimes, we’re best to just “let them alone.”