The Tasmanian Devil population is being decimated by a strange, deadly malady known as “Devil Facial Tumor Disease.” It is a cancer that horribly disfigures an ever-growing portion of the carnivorous marcupial’s body until it suffocates or starves from lesions in the neck. Horrific as the disease is, its means of spreading through that animal population is even more so. The best guess of scientists is that the cancer cell is transmitted when the Devils bite each other during the course of fights. In attacking their fellow species, they are infecting themselves and likely precipitating their own demise. Their infamous ill temperament may be facilitating their own extermination.
False teachers troubled Galatia. This troubled Paul, who by inspiration denounces especially the Judaising troublemakers in the latter part of the epistle. Paul uses many graphic ways to describe their doctrine and approach. It was “bondage” (5:1). It nullified the effect of Christ’s atonement in their spiritual lives (5:2). It indebted one in a way impossible to pay (5:3). It estranged one from Christ, causing that one to fall from grace (5:4). It hindered true obedience to God (5:7). It was destructive leaven (5:9). It was brought by troublemakers and persecutors (5:11,12). It was fleshly (5:13, 16ff). It led to spiritual destruction (5:17-21). It was harmful to “one another” relationships (5:26).
Yet, the most graphic description in the midst of several is found in Galatians 5:15. Paul warned, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (NKJV). Paul had just hyperbolically yearned that the troublers would figuratively mutilate themselves (5:12), but now he says those with such a divisive, ungodly methodology were destined to spiritually wound and even destroy them.
Liberalism is a dominating, troubling concern in spiritual Israel today. The church faces so many battles centering on proposed changes that threaten to undermine its authority and identity. Many want to change things clearly and principally set forth in scripture to suit their own desires and inclinations. In some places, there is an outright push to denominationalize the church of Christ and pollute our pulpits and classrooms with blatantly false ideas.
However, one is naïve who believes only one side (i.e., the “left”) is attacking biblical center. There are too many from another direction who are equally damaging and vicious in their attacks on the body of Christ. In one sense, they are more dangerous due to their contention that they are rooting out all false doctrine and exposing all error. Where they are doing so with proper ethics, attitude, and balance, they are to be applauded. Yet, there is a mentality that seems wholly obsessed with full-time heretic detection, slandering brethren, and scrupulously elevating minutia as on par with Christ’s doctrine. They unnecessarily divide brethren and split congregations. They polarize and draw away disciples after themselves. They are fight-pickers, seemingly eager to engage in lengthy, unending diatribe and debate to the exclusion of other Christian obligations, of righteous, Christlike conduct, and of a charitable spirit that “is not rude…keeps no record of wrongs…does not delight in evil…” (1 Corinthians 13:5,6).
Yet, a pattern seems to be emerging among such contentious brethren. First, they are increasingly turning on one another. Further, they are succeeding in infecting themselves by their biting and devouring. Then, they are facilitating their own demise—that of their influence, reputation, trustworthiness, and respectability. However, they have also viciously wounded good men and women from among us in the process. It is an epidemic that deserves closer attention and needs eradication.
If there is biblical center, it can be abandoned in more than one direction. The antidote is Christ-like love that leads to love of truth and kind treatment of brethren. To do less leads to horrific disfiguring of the body of Christ.
NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN OVER A DECADE AGO. SCIENCE CONTINUES TO CONFIRM THAT THE DISEASE IS SPREAD BY BITING OCCURRING IN FIGHTS…