I’ve learned that when you have a serious problem, it’s best to talk about it.
And when you’ve done something very seriously wrong, it’s best to confess the sin rather than bury it and hope no one else notices. These things don’t just go away.
And the people who love you, if they really love you, will tell you exactly this.
It’s started on December 3, 2014. Wineskins obtain appropriate consents and posted a video of a preaching intern at the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, Tennessee on YouTube. This video was about a young woman, a student at Lipscomb University, and it was a very positive, encouraging production.
The video included interviews with her, with the pulpit minister, Patrick Mead, and showed her sharing the pulpit one Sunday morning with Patrick, fulfilling a course requirement for her to obtain her degree in ministry. And she came across as spectacularly gifted as a public speaker — indeed, as a pulpit minister. She seemed a natural.
Of course, in the Churches of Christ many consider this a violation of the scriptures. Others disagree. I disagree. I came out 20 years ago in favor of women in ministry when I wrote Buried Talents, which has been available here for 7 years and downloaded many thousands of times.
But this post is not about the rightness of women in ministry. (I’m sure there will be a future post or two where the merits can be debated.) It’s about morality. Right and wrong. I bring to your attention this post from Patrick Mead, “When Fish Form Committees, written shortly after the video appeared. Please read the whole thing, but pay particular attention to this part–
Side note: my wife is an interior designer of some note. At a recent meeting of similar high level designers in Nashville she was told that design websites are now closing their comment sections due to vicious attacks and hateful comments made on them. Other industries are doing the same. It is sad when Christians join in and do the same thing, with the same attitude that the world exhibits.
Our church’s Facebook page became a cesspool. Our wonderful secretary did as much as she could to scrub the hate/slander comments and block the writers but one man – a frequent offender who claims he is doing this for Jesus and our brotherhood – even posted instructions on how to get around her and get your comment posted anyway.
Wow. There’s no Jesus in that action or attitude at all. But I STILL won’t form a committee to toss him out of the net. That is the job of angels, not fish.
(paragraphing added to ease Internet reading.)
Let’s suppose that I was firmly convicted that it was doctrinal error — sin — for that young woman to speak to a mixed audience about Jesus. How does such a sin justify hacking a church’s website? Slandering the wife of the preacher in her business? Blackening the name of Jesus in multiple Nashville industries?
It may be the most shameful, sad thing I’ve ever heard about my beloved Churches of Christ. We should be in mourning. The very notion that someone’s doctrinal error justifies criminal activity — in the public eye, and intentionally so — is beyond my ability to understand.
I’ve conducted multiple searches and can find not a single instance of a conservative blogger or website condemning this activity. Plenty of people are happy to excoriate a woman for preaching Jesus to men, but slander, harassment, and criminal activity to protest her so doing? Not a word.
Again, this post is not about the role of women question. It’s about the loss of our sense of morality. Where is it? What is so wrong with us that we find this behavior acceptable? Even laudable. How could our moral standards have become so corrupted that we call evil “good”?
(Isa 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
Jesus spoke of those whose eyes see good where they should see evil–
(Mat 6:22-23 ESV) “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
And I’m afraid that this darkness affects not just a few over-zealous members. After all, if we had any moral center as a Christian fellowship at all, cries for repentance would have come from those closest to those committing these atrocities. I mean, doesn’t the immoral behavior of these people harm the image of the community they are a part of? Of the position they advocate?
Far more importantly, don’t the attacks and the slander reflect badly on Jesus himself?
So why no outcry?
It’s not complicated. Sin is sin and must be repented of. It must be confessed. And it should be confessed just as publicly as the sin was committed. This not just the path to forgiveness, it’s the path to removing a black mark on the reputation of the Churches of Christ, not to mention Jesus. After all, Jesus bears the shame of the misbehavior of all who wear his name.
Let me make a few points that should be obvious.
1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. If the Fourth Avenue congregation was wrong to allow a woman to speak in their assembly, that would not justify sin in retaliation. The Scriptures are clear —
(Rom 12:16-21 ESV) 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
2. We are commanded to correct each other gently.
(2Ti 2:24-26 ESV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Occasionally, someone asks me how to reconcile this with Jesus’ very harsh language regarding the Pharisees. Well, we’re not Jesus.
Jesus has the benefit of being exactly right every time he speaks. The rest of us sometimes make mistakes. We’re not perfect. And so we need to come from a place of humility — and hence gentleness.
3. It is wrong to blame the victims. It’s sophistry to suggest that the Fourth Avenue church should have seen this coming, and somehow it’s their fault. No, it’s not. No one should expect fellow Christians to stoop to such tactics.
Last point. This is not about my side versus your side. It’s about the souls of our brothers and sisters who are sinning in rebellion against the will of God, souls so darkened by a deep, sad misunderstanding of scripture that they can’t tell right from wrong. I fear for their salvation.
Other than pleading for repentance, there is nothing I can do but pray. Which I am doing. But if any of these people were within my circle of friends, I’d be on the phone or in their faces begging them to repent. Not because Jesus and the church can’t survive this. They will. God will see to that. No, this about the souls of those whose zeal for God has become so misdirected that they can no longer distinguish moral from immoral.