The Freedom to Speak – Part 4

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Previous Entry: The Freedom to Speak – Part 3

Addressing the question: If part of a minister’s work is to help others grow in their maturity, and the faith of little ones is that restrictive, then how does a minister help anyone?

The above question was brought to my attention and it deserves an answer. Working with fellow Christians is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have been in a service industry position all my life, whether as a grocery bagger, cashier, mechanic and tire specialist, or insurance representative working with the public and each person specifically is a real challenge.

Each person has preferences. Each person has idiosyncrasies and quirks. Each person has convictions. These apply to all economic statuses and sociopolitical classes. At the end of the day, each person wants to be respected for whom they are, how they feel, their experiences of life, their accumulated knowledge, and what they consider sacred. These things become more acute in an association of fellow believers.

Each believer is still a person. They associate with a group of believers, and that group is either given a denominational (D) or non-denominational (nD) identifier. These groups help the individuals identify themselves. The group has the ability to help the individual to grasp deeper Biblical truths and specifics for the walk of faith.

Even though each D and nD is part of Christianity, their individual and specific interpretations can elicit visceral responses from their people. These are things that ministers, and Christians in general, should be aware of and be gentle and delicate with because these core principles help give the believer spiritual and personal identity. Right, wrong, or indifferent we all have our “core principles”. When we feel that these are under attack we become defensive. There are times core principles should be reexamined, but being fearful of having our core principles challenged can make each of us a “little one”.

In my tradition, much attention has been given to 2 Timothy 4.2 (ESV) “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Lots of time has been given to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort”. Sometimes it seems that when these three things have been taught that permission has been given to carry out those three, no matter the outcome, giving little awareness and less attention to the fallout of the tone of the dialogue.

It is simply not enough to have a “love of the truth” at the expense of the people and their ability to draw near to God. Doing so is at the least unhealthy, at the extreme sinful. James 4.17 seems to be appropriate in this situation “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” As a minister, and as a Christian, I should always be concerned about how another person (whether they believe in Jesus or not) will hear and interpret the message that I present because they just might be the “little one” to whom God has called me to minister.

Going back to 2 Timothy 4.2, Paul includes that statement “complete patience and teaching”. Unfortunately, I have not had and I have witnessed other ministers and church leaders who have not had “complete patience and teaching” with other disciples. This is a failure; it needs not to be defended, but corrected. Believers all want to be right with God and know that they are pleasing to Him, but conversing about matters of Biblical interpretation and practice is a sensitive issue that requires the Minister and Christian to be “wise as serpents and harmless (innocent) as doves” when conversing with others. This seems to be one of the aims of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. This is one of my aims.

In the previous installment, I referred to two passages: 2 Timothy 2.23, Titus 3.9. These passages are important if for no other reason, Paul advises that some discussions are pointless to have because those discussions cause nothing but strife. Simply stated, strife is counterproductive to the growing faith of little ones.

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2.23, ESV)

“But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3.9, ESV)

It seems proper to conclude that as long as a person believes that Jesus is God’s Anointed, then Biblical interpretation (as important as it is) takes a distant second place to encouraging another Christian’s faith.

To combine those thoughts of Paul, Christendom has been filled with foolish, ignorant controversies, dissensions and quarrels that have proven to be unprofitable and worthless. These things have cost the little one’s their faith and have given foothold to the adversary. In short this is why the Hebrew writer encouraged the recipients of his letter to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings (baptisms), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6.1-3, ESV) But as the Hebrew writer understood, this can and will only be done with God’s permission.

Blessings and Shalom

Next Entry: The Freedom to Speak – Part 5

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