Proving Someone Wrong

Proving Someone Wrong

Neal Pollard

I’m not talking about the thing too many people do on social media, where they nitpick others and put in so much effort in the “yeah, but..” game. That is ill-mannered and usually unwelcome. It usually also concerns something amounting to far smaller than a hill of beans. Instead, I refer to something God-directed and involving sin.  

A quick overview of Ephesians lays out a pretty straightforward outline. Chapters one through three lay out what a privilege it is to be a Christian. Chapters four through six speak of how privileged people behave, within the church, with the world, and their relationships, and even with the devil. The “proving wrong” section comes in the second half of the book, dealing with the world. If we isolate ourselves from the world, we cannot hope to be effective. If we allow ourselves to be influenced by the world rather than be an influence on it, we may find ourselves having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. In Ephesians 5:6-14, Paul issues a difficult challenge for us as we live before and within the world on a daily basis. How do we reprove the unfruitful works of darkness?

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE (6). Paul starts this paragraph, saying, “Let no one deceive you.” Context shows that the “these things” that drew God’s wrath involved three broad categories of behavior and three specific actions: fornication, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, and coarse jesting. Paul says, in essence, “Don’t be deceived into thinking these things are OK. To promote ignorance in these areas, all we have to do is remain silent about them and never teach about them. Paul’s concern is about Christians being an influence on the culture, and that’s still the need today.  There are still a great many people in the world who think of Christians as those who avoid filthy speech and who have  objective moral standards about sexual matters. The world sees enough conformation; It needs to see transformation; That requires information! 

BE THE DIFFERENCE (8-10, 13-14). Paul is concerned about people functioning in the spiritual dark. He wants them to take the information (knowledge) he’s given them and let it show in their lives. He illustrates this lifestyle with the metaphor of light. Paul uses the word “light” five times in this one paragraph. Light has characteristics (8-9)–goodness, righteousness, and truth. Light is corrective (11-14)–it remedies problems that occur in its absence (blindness, fear, ignorance, etc.). Light makes visible what was invisible before. We live in a world in serious need of correction. The majority, walking in darkness, are on a collision course with spiritual death. We’re in a position to shine light on their path. Our schools, workplaces, communities, ball fields, and national institutions cry out from the darkness for guidance. Some of the best “reproving” (exposing) occurs when we are the Lord’s lights.

MAKE THE DIFFERENCE (7,11-12). This is the most uncomfortable part of this text. Beyond building our knowledge and setting an example, we must do something. We make a difference through abstinence (7,10), not partaking and having no fellowship with evil. Saying no when invited to participate in sin turns an uncomfortable spotlight on us. Being a “new man” (4:22) means a new behavior, which Paul describes in 4:25-32. The world feels judged when we avoid something we know is wrong. We also make a difference through admonition. Reproving (exposing) means to shine the light on something (we’re shining the Light of Christ onto it, 8). 

When doctrinal error is espoused, do we try to engage people (“in love,” 4:15) or do we just sit in silence? When moral filth is peddled and promoted, do we just go along to get along or do we stand up, stand up for Jesus? In chapter 6, Paul tells us that we’re Christian soldiers, which implies a militancy that must exist (11). Twice more, in 6:13-14, he repeats the charge to “stand firm.” Maybe we’ve witnessed people standing firm in a way that was unnecessarily offensive and unloving. That’s wrong!  But that doesn’t give us an excuse to cowardly avoid saying what needs to be said, no matter what it costs us. Nobody likes to be the bad guy, but God commands that we expose sin. 

Paul follows this instruction, saying “Therefore” (15). His words are written for a purpose. The reason for exposing darkness is that God has us here to make a difference. How we do it requires wisdom, but it is “what the will of the Lord is” (17). Let’s be effective representatives of Christ in this dark world. Let’s understand the urgency of our task and make the most of our time!

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WISDOM IS VINDICATED BY ALL HER CHILDREN

WISDOM IS VINDICATED BY ALL HER CHILDREN

Neal Pollard

There was an old joke or riddle that went, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” How would a man respond? If he said “no,” it was tantamount to confessing to being a wife beater. If he said “yes,” it suggested that he was a former wife-beater. Either way, the conundrum had him struck.  Have you ever had someone try to place you into such a bind?

It has been said that the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. If you are striving to serve Christ and fulfill your purpose as a Christian, there is at least some likelihood that you will be opposed and even accused in some way. Jesus discusses that very matter in Luke seven. He’s teaching His disciples and compares His generation to children who criticize no matter what a person does—some criticizing people for being too somber, others criticizing people for being too festive. Jesus uses that illustration to speak of how God’s enemies criticized John the Baptist and then Himself. The criticism revealed that if John had acted like Jesus and Jesus had acted like John, the critics would still have been dissatisfied.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus did not give us a manual for handling labeling, libelous critics? He does not say to write books or articles, preach sermons, get on TV or the radio, and the like, spending the precious resources of time, money, and influence countering the charges of those who are seemingly not content unless they can bully or intimidate their prey into conforming to the gospel according to them—the arbitrary standard for others they have created and uphold.

Here is Jesus’ summation: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  What does that mean? Look at the offspring of the teaching. What is the result of Jesus’ ministry? People are taught the truth, led to live the way God wants, and are pointed to the narrow way. Criticisms notwithstanding, that’s the fruit.  Speaking of which, Jesus also uses that analogy in the sermon on the mount. He begins and ends the analogy with the idea that “you will know them by their fruits” (Mat. 7:16,20).  But, this is a fair test for everyone.

What is the fruit of the hypercritical attacker? Not only ask if what they teach is technically true, but do they meet the tests of honesty, consistency, kindness, fairness, and love. Do they demonstrate the spirit of Christ, bear the fruit of the Spirit, demonstrate the Christian graces, fulfill the inspired definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, act like the new man, and the like? So often, we do not stop to inspect the inspector. Whether we do or not, the Lord will inspect the work of us all at the end.

Each of us must focus on pleasing God and being absolutely sure that we are submitting to His authority and obeying His will. The standard of judgment at the last day will not be the man-made rules of even the potshot-takers, but instead the words of Christ (John 12:48). Let us be careful to grow in our knowledge of His will each day so we can discern between divine expectations and human regulations. At the end, what we should desire is heavenly vindication. The rest will ultimately take care of itself.

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Answering Our Accusers

Answering Our Accusers

Neal Pollard

There was a time when it was possible to engage in respectful, loving dialogue with brothers and sisters we disagreed with or had a problem with. Even if we felt passionately, we could discuss it civilly and retain or even strengthen our relationship with our “disputant.” We should be thankful that there are still many who are open to such a biblical methodology.  However, there are some who seem intent only on winning the day, seizing some perceived moral or doctrinal high ground, or championing what appears to be a self-serving cause. Some of these same individuals are rife with rancorous rhetoric, baiting or calling out those they seem to see as enemies or the guilty. When we are called out, are we scripturally obligated to answer them or defend ourselves? Or, as the late Wendell Winkler put it, are we simply giving them a platform to spread their extreme views?

For the minority of brethren whose minds are made up, no matter what, or who seem eager to tangle, the question is whether or not it is necessary or helpful to answer their accusations.  I realize there were circumstances like 2 Corinthians where Paul, who was innocent, wrote by inspiration to defend himself. But I also remember when the Lord stood before Herod, Pilate and the Jews and “answered…nothing” (Mat. 27:12; Mark 15:3,5; Luke 23:9; Isa. 53:7). While none of us are nearly so good as our Lord, He is the example we are to strive to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Before answering an accuser, it is wise to determine the following:

  • What is my motivation for answering? Is it to save face for myself? Is it to somehow punish or put my accusers in their place? Is it to prove I’m right and they are wrong? Pride, anger, and hurt feelings are not proper motivations for answering an accuser.
  • What do I hope to accomplish by answering? Will I change their minds or those to whom they pander? Are they actually desirous of an answer? Will I rescue my reputation or harm it by going to their level?
  • What are the ethics of my accusers? Is this a hobby or obsession of theirs (i.e., do they have a pattern and history of doing this with others)? Do they have the facts straight? Do they assert things as facts that are quantifiably wrong? If so, will they deal honestly with the answers I give them or twist them to suit their own agenda?

Here is the judgment call we have to make. Solomon gives divergent advice in Proverbs 26 when he says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (4-5). Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.  Perhaps the Lord has placed that ball in our court, trusting us to use our judgment. If my Lord’s name and cause is threatened, I will be ready to jump to His defense. If someone tries to do that with my name, I should be more careful and if this is a means to allow the common sense observer to look at both of our works and discern each of our characters, may I have the patience and maturity to see it as an opportunity to fulfill Matthew 5:38-48. We don’t have to attend every fight people goad us to join.

marywarren