The Bible tells in many places to love the brethren, and I do. But like any family, its members sometimes embarrass each other. One of the times I am most embarrassed by some of my fellow Christians is when they get riled up about something, especially something the unsaved world is doing. I’ve winced to read on both secular and Christian message boards and hear on radio call-in programs where someone has gotten all in a dither over the issue being discussed and ended up just ranting rather than saying anything constructive.
I do believe in taking a stand, a firm and uncompromising stand for truth and righteousness. The prophets did; Peter did; Paul did, the Lord Jesus did. But the way it is done can either make the truth clearer and make righteousness both attractive and reasonable, or it can come across like a goat butting its head against everything in sight. And when it deteriorates from dealing with the issue to just making snide remarks or personal attacks, it has seriously overstepped the bounds.
Dictionary.com defines “rail” as “To express objections or criticisms in bitter, harsh, or abusive language” and “revile” as “to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language; address or speak of abusively.” If you look up either of those words in a Bible search program, you’ll see that they are not to be characteristic of a Christian’s speech. I Corinthians 6:9-11 lists revilers right along with adulterers and thieves as the type of people we’re not supposed to be; I Corinthians 5:11 lists a railer alongside idolaters and extortioners. The Bible says that even angels “bring not railing accusation” against evildoers (II Peter 2:10-11); even “Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 8-10). I Peter 3:8-10 instructs that even when we’re railed against, we’re supposed to respond with blessing rather than railing — certainly not a natural response but a supernatural response made possible by God’s power. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the supreme example of this: “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:22-24).
I came across this quote this weekend:
“I have noticed this, that when a man is full of the Holy Ghost, he is the very last man to be complaining of other people. He loves everybody too tenderly. He loves even a cold church, and is anxious to lift them up and bring them to a kinder feeling and sympathy.” D. L. Moody.
I’m still pondering that statement, but I think he is right on that our motivation is love. I think when we’re full of “righteous indignation,” even when we think we are so on the Lord’s behalf, that’s when we fall into whining, complaining, reviling and railing, being filled with the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit.
James 1:19-20 tells us “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Psalm 37 tells us in three places (vv. 1, 7, and 8 ) to “fret not” because of evildoers, but rather to
“Trust in the LORD, and do good” (v. 3)
“Delight thyself also in the LORD” (v. 4)
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him” (v. 5)
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him” (v. 7)
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (v. 8 )
“Wait on the LORD, and keep his way” (v. 14).
There are various reasons given for trusting the Lord concerning evildoers in that chapter, among them the facts that we can trust God to take care of us and to take care of them. But other places in the Bible go a step further: I Peter 2:11-12 says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Our right reactions glorify God and are a testimony of Him. And, as one of the thieves beside Christ on the cross first railed against Him but later came to see his own sinfulness and Christ’s holiness and then believed on Him, so our Christlike responses can lead some to Him.
All of this does not mean we become spineless or doormats or wishy-washy, never saying anything, never taking a stand. There are numerous places where we are instructed to speak out for the truth. But the way we do so can either help or hurt the cause of Christ.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.