Calls to Repentance Are Not Attacks
As if the presence of such books as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Haggai, Malachi, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, James, 1-3 John, and Revelation in the canon of Scripture were insufficient, I find it necessary to remind you, my dear reader, that an “attack”, or “going after” someone, or “slander”, is not the same thing as calling someone to repentance.
That is, unless you think that God desires evil and hurtful outcomes for people.
You see, a highly visible and consistent theme throughout not only those books but many other passages in the Scripture is the call to forsake sin and, having left it, to pursue holiness.
Hebrews 12:14- Pursue peace with all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Romans 6:17-18 – But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
What is the outcome of a life lived in the pursuit of holiness and Christ-likeness?
Romans 2:5-8 – But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
Romans 6:22 – But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
But how does one get from Point A, lost in sin, guilt, and slavery to sin, to Point C, on the road to eternal life, living in holiness and seeking the Lord’s face? Repentance! It is a change of heart, a turning away, a change, a major modification in trajectory, an overthrow. It, along with trusting faith in Jesus, is the necessary precondition for that life, for the departure from the dark path that leads to death to the light-drenched path that leads to life.
Eph 5:6-13 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
Now, as someone to whom God has given a love for my neighbor and my enemy, a love for everyone in the world, I want what is best for everyone. Love is a commitment to the best for the beloved. And allow me to restate the obvious here – when someone sins, that’s bad. When someone repents, it’s good! When someone faithfully walks with Jesus, it’s yet better. But if they’re not walking with Jesus, I want them to do it. How can that happen? Repentance! They have to turn around before they can walk the other direction.
So, the loving thing to desire, when you see someone in sin, is their repentance. Ignoring their sin so that they continue in darkness and harm to themselves and others is not love; it’s more like hatred, and it is ungodly and unChristlike. If you don’t desire their repentance, then how can you desire their walking in holiness, and if you don’t desire their walking in holiness, how can you desire them to end up in eternal life with Jesus? And if you don’t want them in heaven, you have a serious heart problem.
Since nobody, not even longtime Christians, are perfect, there may come a time and opportunity when you see your brother or sister walking in darkness by their sin, and you’ll be faced with a choice? Do you do the godly thing engage in what some call “friendly fire”? Or do you take action consistent with their perpetuating ungodliness in their lives, that is to say, no action?
Jesus engaged in “friendly fire” a few times.
Matthew 16:23 – But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Revelation 2:4-5 – “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
So did the Apostle Paul. The entire book of Galatians is that way, including the confrontation (in front of everyone, by the way – Galatians 2:15) of Peter. He criticises the Judaisers, who were members of the church, by the way, in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, and the congregation for tolerating them. So did James, so did Peter; the list goes on.
Let’s consider a great example, however, in the life of King David. He commits adultery with Bathsheba despite having numerous wives, arranges for the murder of her husband, then continues like nothing happened. The prophet Nathan then engages in “friendly fire” toward this otherwise godly king. Now, was that wise of him? The threats around Israel remained strong. The Philistine threat never disappeared. The prospect of Moab or Edom revolting never permanently disappeared. Who knew whether Aram or Egypt would start making trouble? The Israelites had still not made a clean break from the idolatry they’d been practicing for hundreds of years! Surely, there were concerns enough to occupy a man’s mind.
This is worldly wisdom – “let’s focus on the external threat while leaving the heart alone.” Godly wisdom compels us to repent of sin so that we can do what is right, with clear vision and clean heart to see the right thing and to be able to do it, unencumbered by sin.
Hebrews 12:1 – …Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
So Nathan engaged in friendly fire, did the hard thing… and the payoff was repentance and a return to holiness. What Nathan did was good and helpful to David. David needed Nathan’s intervention.
Consider again Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, when there were Pharisees that needed reprimanding. There were more people that needed healing, Samaritans left without Gospel ministry, etc. Jesus spends some of His valuable time engaging in “friendly fire”. Why? Because Peter did not have in mind the things of God, but rather the things of men.
Here are some other thoughts in rapid succession:
–It goes without saying that any rebuke must be done in love, at all times. The motivations must be loving, and so must the manner of rebuke.
–Love and lovingness are defined by Scripture, not modern American mores. How did Jesus deal with people? Do what He did, how He did it.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
–Those who complain about the rebuke of sin or about “friendly fire” should be more concerned with the validity of the critique and the heart of the person in question rather than the person who perceived the alleged sin, unless the one calling for repentance has himself displayed an ungodly attitude or something. But the bare fact of calling sin sin is not sinful. It is, in fact, Christlike and godly.
–It takes humility to receive criticism and repent. Guard your heart against pride, dear reader.
–To complain about friendly fire from one Christian to another is itself friendly fire by that yardstick, so it is hypocritical, and of course hypocrisy is never commendable.
Romans 12:9 – Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Don’t be afraid to detect sin and to talk about it, and don’t hypocritically use the words “attack” or “go after” when a call to repentance is in view. Attacking or going after someone means you wish them ill or harm, but a call to repentance is an invitation to the best thing, to good and godliness. The two are diametrically opposed, so reform your speech on this issue so that you do not add to the problem rather than to the solution.
[Contributed by Rhology]