In the movie Forest Gump, Forest makes only a couple references to his intellectual disability. When Jenny questions his ability to have a serious relationship with her, he angrily retorts, “I may be a stupid man, Jenny, but I know what love is!”
Critics of discernment ministry often accuse discernment bloggers of being unloving. Sometimes, sadly, they correctly call us out. And when we fail to operate out of genuine love, we definitely need our brothers and sisters to correct us. In fact, if they really love us, they certainly will be faithful to show us our sin and to call us to repentance. Christian love never allows someone to remain in sin and/or doctrinal error.
To demonstrate my point, let’s walk through the Bible’s most celebrated passage on love, and compare the attributes it lists against the common understanding of love. Additionally, let’s examine how we exhibit those various attributes when someone offends us. We won’t cover the whole passage today, but we’ll start working through it. Perhaps discernment bloggers and critics of discernment bloggers can both use this passage as a grid for evaluating how well we love others.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
Love is patient. Okay, everyone probably agrees on that one. No one seriously regards a person who rams his agenda down the throats of their opponent as a loving person.
But what about the discernment blogger who amasses overwhelming evidence against someone they consider to be a false teacher? Can that blogger be patient with people who question that evidence? Can she prayerfully consider the possibility that she hasn’t seen the whole picture? Does she take time to listen to opposing points of view? And if she correctly identifies a false teacher, will she be patient with people who love that teacher?
By the same token, will people defending that teacher patiently listen to the case that the discernment blogger makes? Will they resist the urge to assume nefarious motives? Will they address the actual issues? Will they patiently take the allegations questioning that teacher back to Scripture, open to the possibility that the discernment blogger might actually know something? And if the discernment blogger is mistaken in her allegations, will they be patient while the discernment blogger bears fruits of repentance?
Love is kind. Well, who could possibly disagree there? Yet anyone with a Twitter account can see how unkind people are in expressing dissenting views. As strenuously as people plead for kindness, few of them seem as interested in showing kindness as in having their opponents treat them kindly.
Does a discernment blogger resort to catty remarks about a suspected false teacher? Does he mock their mannerisms or make fun of their appearance? Are their articles filled with ad hominem attacks or snide remarks? Do they major on character assassination rather than sticking to the person’s teaching and/or sinful actions? Are they so intent on discrediting the teacher that they don’t really want the teacher to be restored?
Are critics of that blogger so focused on discrediting him that they impugn his character instead of listening to his points? Will they avoid assigning motives that the blogger may or may not have? Can they argue their position without ad hominem attacks. Will they forgo strawman arguments designed to belittle the discernment blogger? Can they challenge him in ways that show respect?
Tomorrow we’ll continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and examining our attitudes and actions. All of us will probably see areas where we can love better.