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FEAR NOT

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal at ATF 2020
Photo credit: Wayne Roberts

Neal Pollard

Fear not…

Military Threats.  Whether Al Qaida, the Taliban, Iranian nuclear weapon building, alliances between China, North Korea, and Russia, or armed forces spread too thin.

Natural Catastrophe.  Whether global warming, meteors crashing through the atmosphere, glacial melting, California sliding off into the ocean, or events like tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes.

Economic Collapse.  Whether the breaking of Social Security, a major stock market crash, the mounting U.S. debt, recession, the real estate bubble bursting, bankruptcy, out of control inflation, or job losses to illegal immigrants.

Potential Persecution.  Whether the steadily rising antagonism against Christianity, overthrow by foreign oppressors, the mounting tide of immorality promoting sin, or the epidemic ignorance of the Bible in our land.

Health Problems.  Whether Coronavirus, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, AIDS, kidney failure, dementia, arthritis, blood clots, or liver disease.

Academic Decline.  Whether comparative test scores with children in other nations, a socially-charged curriculum agenda, the “dumbing down of America,” the de-emphasis of classroom competition, or outcome-based education programs.

Rather, “Fear God” (Ecc. 5:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).       “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).  “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him” (Deut. 13:4). “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him” (Psalm 25:14).  “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;  He will also hear their cry and will save them.  The Lord keeps all who love Him,  but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:19-20).  “And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him” (Luke 1:50).  “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

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“Let Them Alone”

Neal Pollard

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.”