It seems to me that you, Douglas, should mention by name church leaders who may have constructed a man-made system. Why don't you say their names publicly? Are you afraid of doing this?

If a leader--an elder, for example--sins in a serious way, Paul says he is to be warned publicly in the local congregation (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Even then, accusations are not to be entertained lightly. But I do not find chastising someone publicly for errors of judgment, even for wrong emphases of theology, in my Bible. That is quite another matter. I will preach the truth, and that may well mean preaching against error (regardless of how accepted it may have become). I would rather preach against the error than preach against the person currently propagating the error. This is more biblical.

Of course, if someone constituted such a threat to the flock that to say nothing would be to allow the sheep to be slaughtered, I would not hesitate to speak up. I have often done so in the past and I do not see this pattern changing anytime soon. No, I am not afraid of taking a stand.

There is a huge difference between an Alexander or Hymenaeus, on the one hand, and most of us, all of whom make mistakes and hopefully accept correction so that we may be better Christians. None of us is infallible. It is not clear which is worse: theological sloppiness (which we should all guard against, in the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22), or a contentious and fractious spirit.

Besides, there are libel laws. To defame another person is to take a legal risk, and quite possibly to expose the trustees of the church to litigation. While 1 Corinthians 6 instructs us not to sue our fellow believers, the directive does not necessarily protect us from a lawsuit if we have gossiped, slandered, or borne false witness. We are the ones forbidden to sue our fellow Christians. (In the meantime, let's pray that he or she will not ignore Paul's directive and sue us!)

We've all made mistakes, including you and me. A spirit of forbearance and grace is much needed in this day and age. Let us not be like the politicians, slinging mud at one another one moment, then pretending to be colleagues on good terms the next. As the aged apostle John said, "Dear children, let us love one another" (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 5).

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only.