“He’s the devil and is leading people astray!”
Ah, the Internet Theological Watchdogs with their ad hominem arguments. It wasn’t me being called the devil, but someone who’s influenced the evangelism of the modern American church and a sizable portion of a generation of pastors.
The person attacking the so-called “devil” was someone who (obviously) disagreed philosophically with the implication of this pastor’s theology of evangelism. And while I could see his point, it was one more time this same person attacked the pastor calling him the same thing.
It seemed to be his singular focus: attacking the alleged heretic. Truthfully, the attacker rarely writes about much else than the “devil” pastor and those like him. So far…it doesn’t seem to have done much for his own testimony of grace.
The Apostle Paul might have some remarks for this Internet Theological Watchdog in 1 Timothy 6:20-21.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all.1 Timothy 6:20-21
New International Version
In his first of the two final commands to his young protégé (at least in this letter), the Apostle Paul tells Timothy first to safeguard the deposit of the call of his life. While the call certainly meant being faithful to the churches in Ephesus, it also meant Timothy needed to keep his heart and hands clean before the Lord.
The second command is to stay the course in the churches in Ephesus. He could not give up in protecting the truth from those seeking to destroy it in the churches. How was Timothy to “turn away from godless chatter” (verse 20)?
Instead of wasting energy and time confronting each and every whisper of false teaching and doctrine, Timothy was to ignore it and continue in the truth.
There’s a powerful lesson for us, whether or not we are leaders in our congregations. We all know the “junkyard dogs of doctrine” in our congregations. They just seem to be sitting around waiting to pounce on someone who gets awry in their theology.
Don’t misunderstand me: incorrect theology is incorrect theology, but constantly bashing, hammering, speaking, writing, addressing, and pointing it out pretty much sums us the Apostle’s definition of “godless chatter”.
If they’re wrong, they’re wrong. We address the problem and move on. The Apostle Paul wasn’t telling Timothy—or us—to ignore it when people are wrong. The Holy Spirit inspired author is telling us to not get caught up in the constant circle of debate that produces nothing.
Nothing, that is, except for the erosion of our own testimony of God’s grace. We can become consumed with pointing theological error to where we become known by what we stand against.
Is this how Jesus conducted His ministry?
How sad it would be for us as ambassadors of Jesus to become known as theologically-minded jerks.
Instead, let us be known by the grace of the Lord.
Let us be known by the truth of the Lord.
Let us be known as gracious defenders of not only the truth but of the purity of the witness we bear for the Lord of that truth.
“Grace be with you all” (verse 21).
Next week, we’ll start a journey in the follow-up letter to Timothy: 2 Timothy. Thanks for being part of the journey!