The Back Story of Being Firm
Last week I did something I had never done before. I went to an event specifically because it was being hosted by a church in the region I labor in. I went there prepared for difficulty and hoping for a warm reception. My goal was not simply to stir up trouble, but to compel people who were professing Christians to love and good works. I also went into this even knowing being firm with these folks would be a necessity.
I had no allusions that I was going to be received as some grand messenger sent from God Himself. However, the reception I did get left me taken a little aback. One person, even in their kindness, over emphasized their take that my approach was unloving and unkind. Consequently, I must assert to you my beloved readers, that I wasn’t being firm just to be a jerk. I was being firm for the sake of love.
Hypocrite or Being Firm Consistently
My intent in this event was almost exclusively to preach the Gospel. Frankly, my reason for this was based on the fact this event was to be a public baptism of many people. Some of you upon reading that last sentence will be shocked at my decision to preach at such an event. Furthermore, many of you who know me the best will not be shocked at all.
I have often decried the ease and comfort of baptism in Western Christian culture. (An article on this very topic is coming soon.) However, my grave concern for this event was that I believe that the pastor or the people of the church do not preach the full counsel of God when it comes to the Gospel. It was my concern that many of those to be baptized were being made twice-fold the sons of hell.
I realize and recognize readily that showing up to such an event as an evangelist is confrontational. Moreover, as one who adamantly opposes the Church Repent Project of AHA, this foray was entering shaky ground. Instead of being seen as being firm many could see me as being merely a hypocrite.
I will not spend any time defending myself from such an accusation. I am all too often just such a person. This isn’t the case here, but if you choose to label me as such, I understand.
Being Firm Out of the Gate
As I was about to begin, before I could even get my camera running or my bible open, the pastor of the church confronted me. He wanted to know what my plans were. When I advised him that I planned to preach the Gospel, he protested that he would be doing just that. I firmly and with some force told him I did not think that that was indeed the case.
Furthermore, I called him a wolf and unqualified to his face. Hindsight being what it is, there was a better way to say what I knew needed to be said while being firm without the grating statement. In all honesty, it isn’t easy to refrain from being angry when confronted with such verbiage. Unless you are Christ, there is a good chance you will recoil and then lash out. This is exactly what happened. Sadly, it set the tone for the rest of the evening.
In the end, based on the counsel of several friends, the mentioned pastor may indeed be truly saved and therefore not a wolf. That does not change that he is unqualified.
Being Firm in the Face of Hostility
Once the cat was out of the bag so to speak, there was not much to do but remain resolute. It will come as no surprise that folks from the church approached me immediately. Arguments were made demanding that I cease and desist and that I move on. I was told that I needed to follow Matthew 18 if I felt that this pastor had sinned against me. However, I asserted that the sin was not personal against me but against God. I was told that I was causing harm to the body and destroying unity. Being firm, I asserted that I could not have unity with someone I believed to be in grave error.
Over and over, I was confronted. One lady, claiming to have nothing to do with the local church in question, quite judgmentally judged me for judging the church. Never mind the reality that Paul asserts quite clearly that we are to judge the church and not those outside of her.
Even when law enforcement was called in by these supposed brothers and sisters I insisted on being firm. Admittedly, there is a fine line between asserting one’s right to preach to the point of sin and standing on the freedoms granted us by God as Americans. I believe I came very close to being sited or ticketed. Fortunately, the situation was resolved and legal action was taken against me. However, the officer even got in on the action and reminded me that I had no right to judge.
Being Firm for the Sake of Love
As the time passed and I continued to preach the Gospel and warnings against following false teachers, I was able to engage in several good conversations. One man approached me shooting video of his own. While the conversation started out somewhat adversarial it felt to me as if we were moving closer and closer to mutual respect.
Perhaps my take on the interaction is wrong. I am often guilty of misreading these situations. However, that-being-said, that conversation allowed me to preach the Gospel to two passers-by who were apparently intrigued by the scene. I relay all of this, to say that being firm, even when it is uncomfortable is the best thing for all parties.
We see this from Jesus all over the Gospels. It certainly didn’t seem loving to the Pharisees when they were called snakes. I cannot imagine it felt loving when Jesus told the disciples it would be better to have heavy stones tied around the necks of those who mislead and that they be cast into the sea.
Make no mistake; I am not confusing myself with Christ. I have no allusions there either. Often times I consider my actions as wholly pure when instead I am being a self-righteous prig. However, on this night, I stand by my contention that I was being firm for the sake of love.
The Hard Part of Being Firm
There is a hard part to being firm. I personally hate confrontation. Most of you may not believe that, but it is true. It literally makes my stomach turn. I have always been prone to pleasing people. It took me a long time to overcome this trait.
Indeed, prior to my conversion to Christ, I was an arrogant jerk who loved to argue simply to argue. Sadly, that trait still rises up in me. However, for the most part, God has worked in me to motivate me to overcome my fear of man and desire to be liked. Yet, that does not make confrontation any easier for me. Last Wednesday was not only physically exhausting for me, it was spiritually overwhelming.
Moreover, it caused me some conflict with people I love and care for personally. Not even the board of directors/oversight for the ministry was 100% happy with what they observed. My actions have caused some turmoil for several people I love and care for deeply. They have been put in the awkward position of having to acknowledge they know me and in one case, acknowledge that I am not entirely wrong. This has the potential to strain friendships for them.
These unintended consequences are the hard part. I hate the way these things affect those I love deeply. It is easy to consider backing down. Even as I type this, the thought is there. However, is that the right thought?
The End of the Matter
Simply put, I cannot take back what transpired last week. Overall, despite the comment calling the pastor a wolf, I have no desire to do so. I retract my wolf comment and I repentantly seek the grace of the aforementioned pastor. Had I been more guarded in my words that may have set a different tone for the night. I cannot even delve too deeply into speculating on that.
However, that aside, I would have said everything else I said to every person that evening. There is no sense in second-guessing all of it. The hardest of all temporal judgments are reserved for God’s people. We see that again and again for Israel. We even see examples of it in the New Testament. Paul warns people to flee from sins that will bring the destruction of their flesh if they continue. These warnings are not directed towards the unconverted world, but to the people making up the church.
As mentioned before, Paul himself makes it clear that we do not judge those outside the church, but the very church itself. Being firm is not an act of meanness or hatred; it is the most loving thing that a true believer can do.
No matter what we as individuals think of the matter, we are called to great acts of being firm. Jude commands us to contend earnestly for the faith in his epistle. Paul tells us to act like men. There is a great burden and beautiful duty to remaining resolute in the face of opposition. This is not merely for the sake of pride of being right, but for the sake of the purity of the Bride of Christ.
So my beloved reader, are you prepared for great acts of being firm. Are you ready like Polycarp, to play the man in face of those who hate the message?
Soli Deo Gloria!