Dealing With Error
Some folks seem to be laboring under the idea that we manifest love by overlooking and tolerating error. Candid thinking, however, will reveal the absurdity of such thoughts. Error or sin, left unattended, causes spiritual death (Romans 6:23). Is it showing love for one whom we believe to be in error by refusing to tell him about it? Some who boast the loudest about their "love" for their brethren and fellowman are the last ones to muster the requisite courage to point out error. Thus, their pious mouthings of "love", brotherly or otherwise, are seen to be nothing more than hypocritical claims. True love transcends personal concern for offense or loss of friendship. True love recognizes that only the truth can make us free from the bondage of sin and prompts us to speak in spite of the circumstances. Principle #1 – Error needs to be exposed; real love accepts the challenge.
At the same time, we need to be very careful about how we approach our criticism of others. We need to be sure of the facts. Human beings are so prone to misunderstand one another. (Remember the Abbott and Costello: "Who's On First Base" routine?) There is far too much of the "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality, even among Christians, when we have not taken the time to investigate all the facts. Jesus said, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge ye righteous judgment" (John 7:24). There has been so much doctrinal infighting and rebuking when either or both "opponents" do not even completely understand the other's position – yet all kinds of judgments and accusations are made. Remember Proverbs 18:13: "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." Principle #2 – Be sure we understand the other person.
We need to watch our attitudes in the way we administer correction to others. Paul told Timothy, "And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." (See also Galatians 6:1.) Reproofs are hard to take in any case. But when correction is administered in a harsh, anything-but-gentle manner, its effectiveness is drastically diminished. What might have resulted in the restoration of beloved brethren is thus provoked into all-out warfare. Principle #3 – Watch our attitudes in our efforts to correct.