I submit this letter reflecting on the discussions taking place in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the SB. I do not take writing this lightly, but do so out of love for Christ and His church. My intention is not to hold myself above anyone else. These words that I write are to be applied to me and my shortcomings in this life, as much as or more than anyone.
I fear that we are being influenced greatly by the world’s ways of discussing an issue. Respect is not being shown to those with whom there is a disagreement. This only escalates the division. So much worse is this when done in the church. We are called by God’s Word to be meek and to deal with disagreements among us with charity.
When we have a grievance against a brother of a private nature, we are called to go the way of Matthew 18. The principle of Matthew 18 to keep matters as private as possible applies in all aspects of our lives. If a minister says something in a sermon that we disagree with, we are not to speak to others of our disagreement, but to go to the brother first. We should have his good name and reputation in mind, especially because of the office he holds in Christ’s church.
When we draw conclusions about one’s intentions without talking privately first, we do great harm to a relationship on a personal level. How much worse is it when we draw hasty conclusions in a public way for all to see when we have not heard him out first. I would assert that this inflicts great harm to your neighbor publicly, and raises up others against the neighbor. In the words of Lord’s Day 43, the ninth commandment speaks against judging or condemning a man rashly or unheard. It also states that we are to defend and promote our neighbor’s name as much as we are able. We must pray for humility and grace from God to deal with one another in meekness.
Our ministers are men. They make mistakes. When they are made into false teachers rashly, great harm is done to their ministry. When a minister does not cross all of his t’s and dot all of his i’s, someone listening to the sermon or reading the article must show charity to the man by talking to him. The worst thing that can be done is to voice a disagreement with others so that a sermon goes viral. We need to remember who our ministers represent.
My purpose in this is not to say we should not discuss issues. My hope is that we will see letters written that do not mislead the reader concerning the intentions of the author and paint him in a bad light.
The Canons of Dordt 400 years ago recognized our inability to understand fully this debate we have been having by writing what they did in heads 3 and 4, Article 13. “The manner of this operation cannot be fully comprehended by believers in this life.” With this in mind, let us use more sanctified wisdom in our writing.
Proverbs 15:1—“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
I Timothy 6: 3–4—“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.”
Grand Rapids, Michigan