Have Mercy O Lord
by Mike Ratliff
Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:11-21 NET)
As many of you know, there has been an escalation of the conflict between those of us who are contributors to the Christian Research Network and certain self-appointed apologists for the Purpose Driven Paradigm and the New Evangelism. There has been the threat of lawsuits and demands for censure of certain posted comments. I posted my response to this in Pride Arrogance and Humility. It has been very eye opening as certain people have seen fit to attempt to justify this sort of behavior by pointing fingers at others who they accuse of “doing the same thing.” There are several issues here being exacerbated by negative emotional responses.
Now, that being said, I would like to point out that the Bible clearly teaches that this sort of behavior is of the world and should not be present in the body of Christ. Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. Taking vengeance is not our prerogative. That belongs to God alone. What is our role as Christians in these debates? It is to tell the truth, never twisting it or only telling half-truths. We are to pray for God to work through His truth in the hearts of those to whom we speak. We are not to respond with hateful, vindictive comments or actions regardless of how our message is received. Now, does this preclude us from speaking the truth? Absolutely not!
Historically, Protestants have argued that there are certain, essential marks that characterize a true church. The Belgic Confession of 1561 identifies these marks as being three in number. In addition to the “pure preaching of the gospel” and the “pure administration of the sacraments,” a true church “practices church discipline for correcting faults.” – from “The Forgotten Mark” by Tom Ascol.
My brethren, this “church discipline,” spelled out clearly for us by our Lord in Matthew 18:15-18, is never to be vindictive in nature. Instead, it is what God has commanded us in His Word to do with the objective of restoration of those in error or sin. He instructs us to help one another in our pursuit of holiness. Now, in this debate which has caused such vilification of each other, I think I can stand on what God commands us to exhort all parties involved to stop before you respond emotionally or vindictively to what someone else says or writes that you do not agree with. If you have Biblical proof that you are right and the other is clearly wrong then present that with the motivation of restoration, not to destroy. However, God’s Word also tells us that if we go through all of the steps to restore a brother or sister unto fellowship through the presenting of the truth yet they refuse to repent, then we are to deliver them over to God for discipline. Name calling, vengeful attitudes and actions are not genuine Christian behaviors.
Some of you may say that you are only responding in kind. Again, that is no excuse. I have been accused of not allowing discussion on some of my posts by refusing to post certain comments. The usual reason I do this is not to avoid debate, but to not allow the fire to get out of control. Arguing is not debate. Innuendo, truth twisting, half-truths, are not elements of true debate. When I detect this going on I will stop it in its tracks. Some have tried to intimidate me to change this policy. Sorry, but no, I will not allow this sort of thing to happen in this ministry. How should we respond when people “come at us” like this, demanding that we allow them free reign with all of their provocative verbiage? Well, I am sure my hit count would go way up if I allowed this sort of thing, but that is not the point of this ministry nor should it be of any Christian ministry.
Now, I am sure that the Holy Spirit has laid some conviction on the hearts of some reading this about their involvement in the ugliness we have seen in this debate. Here is what you need to do. Confess your sins to God, repent of those sins, and seek to walk holy and blameless before your Lord. I ask that all reading this to read the passage below with a prayerful and honest searching in your own heart.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! Scrub away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin! For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you, especially you, I have sinned; I have done what is sinful in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. Look, I was prone to do wrong from birth; I was a sinner the moment my mother conceived me. Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom. Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Give me the ecstatic joy of being forgiven! May the bones you crushed rejoice! Hide your face from my sins! Wipe away all my wrong acts! Create for me a pure heart! Transform me and give me integrity! Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me! Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance! Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to you. Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me! Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance. O sovereign Master, give me reason to celebrate! Then my mouth will praise you. Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; you do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The “sacrifices” God desires are a humble attitude — O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. Be favorably disposed to Zion! Build the walls of Jerusalem! Then you will accept the proper sacrifices, burnt sacrifices and whole offerings; then bulls will be sacrificed on your altar. (Psalms 51:1-19 NET)
If you prayed this back to God then I rejoice with you in the work God is doing in your heart. However, if you have stiffened your neck and refused to submit yourself to the Holy Spirit here then I pray that God will not allow you to rise and resume your vindictive behaviour. I pray that He will bring you low and humble you. My brethren, we are simply our Lord’s slaves. We are to submit our wills to His. His will is clear. We must not interact according to the ways of the world. We are called to walk a different path.
Soli Deo Gloria!