Categories
correction courage Uncategorized

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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Categories
correction discipline rebuke Uncategorized

Rebuke Requires Relationship

Neal Pollard

  • A child scolded by an austere stranger may get frightened or bullied, but not persuaded or “reached.” A parent, grandparent, a sibling, or good friend will be much more effective.
  • A church member reprimanded by an aloof elder with none of the skill and instincts of a shepherd will get offended, hurt, and angered, but will likely ignore the admonition. A caring, involved elder, even if what he says is difficult and narrow, will prove much more effective. Jesus makes this clear in John 10:5.
  • A preacher who isolates himself from the members, though golden-tongued and 100% right, will cause rankling and roiling rather than remorse and repentance when dealing with sensitive, “hard” subjects. Yet, a man people know cares about them will be given a hearing on even “hot button” matters delivered in loving conviction. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 makes this clear.
  • A brother or sister bringing a criticism or dispensing blunt advice, who has done nothing to establish rapport and relationship with the object of their censure, will have zero impact for good and most likely widen the distance already existent between them. Galatians 6:1-2 implies one who has worn the yoke with the one approached about the trespass.
  • A “Facebook friend” or social media connection, who does a drive-by, verbal “shooting,” devoid of real life connection and bond, is seen as an obnoxious oaf at best and more likely as an impertinent intruder. That forum is not typically going to work for effective exhortation, especially if the dressing-down comes from one who has established no meaningful link. Remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). That’s a real friend; not a virtual one.
  • A neighbor who has taken no time to be a friend or neighborly delivers hollow requests, suggestions, or demands. Without benefit of time and shared experience, this is received as bad manners and bad form. One who takes the time to demonstrate care will be much better heard (cf. Prov. 11:12).
  • A co-worker or schoolmate will be unpersuaded by someone who makes no time for them or takes no time to get to know them but who gets in their business is wasting their time. But, one who proves genuine concern will much more likely get a thoughtful hearing.

It’s just the way we are. We bristle at cold, heartless interference from the seemingly disinterested party. But we are open and receptive to people who take the time to get to know, understand, and care about us. The same thing said the same way will make a big difference, depending on the presence or absence of a relationship. We would do well to strive to build more and better relationships, especially if we desire to help people grow closer to Christ and go to heaven. May we first work on the connection before we attempt the correction.

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Categories
childrearing

Can You Do Something With Your Children?

 

Neal Pollard

“Older people”—in which I include not just the elderly but anyone whose children are older—and even others should practice compassion and sympathy toward our dear parents who are making the effort and sacrifice to be present in our assemblies with their wonderful small children.  Attention spans and articulation of needs are challenges up to a certain age.  Even good children wrestle with rambunctiousness and precociousness.  This is natural and certainly forgivable.  With compassion, we must acknowledge that some children have special needs and cannot help some of their behaviors.

Yet, there can be children who are simply spoiled and undisciplined.  While all of us are experts on how others should be raising their children, we all come to the task regarding our own children as rank novices.  God knew that, and so He instructs us as to what to do with our children.

“Train” them (Pro. 22:6). If we are not careful, we can let our children train and condition us.  Have you ever seen children who consistently “ruled the roost” in their homes?  Training implies intention, planning, forethought, and concerted effort. When children seek to impose their will, it takes great will-power and discipline on our part to show them what is and is not appropriate.

“Bring them up” (Eph. 6:4).  Who was it that said “if you don’t bring them up, you’ll let them down?”  I agree with them.  Paul urges fathers to raise children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  We must mold them into God-followers, which means appealing to their minds and bodies.  The instruction addresses the mind. The discipline guides the body.  The antithesis would be undisciplined, ignorant children in the most important area of life—the spiritual!

“Love” them (Tit. 2:5).  Here, Paul urges mothers in this all-important, pervasive action.  Sadly, some think love equates to indulgence, permissiveness, and helpless by standing.  Not at all!  Only loving parents will make their children obey the rules, be polite and well-behaved, and considerate of others.  How sad and unloving when parents constantly shift blame or excuse misbehavior rather than address it and help correct it.

Train them, bring them up, and love them.  Do this, and others will sincerely enjoy being around your children, will compliment them consistently, and thank you for making the effort.  Fail to do it at the potential peril of the child and yourself!  Do what God says should be done with your children!  You will be glad you did.