False teachers and false teaching should, by all the means, make Christians angry! If we love the Word of God, we will naturally hate anything that comes against it. And such animosity comes out of a pure love for Christ and His people.
Did you notice the clause, “and His people”? I didn’t put that there simply for rhetorical value. Loving the people of Christ encompasses many things, one of which is wanting them to reject false teaching in favor of doctrinal purity. It follows that we should approach victims of false teaching just that — victims.
Sometimes we forget that most of the people who fall victim to these theological aberrations honestly believe they follow the Lord. Some are even genuine Christians, as I was. Yes, they need correction. So did I. It’s even possible that some of you fell prey to false teaching as young believers.
Indeed, those of us who have been rescued from deception tend to be the most zealous in fighting against it. We, more than Christians who have been raised in doctrinally sound churches, understand how false teaching cripples Christians, keeping them locked in spiritual immaturity.
Furthermore, it grieves and angers us to see false teachers distort God’s Word. As well it should! Ladies, if it doesn’t trouble you when someone mishandles Scripture, you might want to check whether or not you’re really devoted to God’s Word. Once you really cherish the Bible as God’s very Word, you find it increasingly difficult to tolerate distortions of it.
But we can easily lose sight of the fact that those who really want to know the truth will listen to correction and go to Scripture in an attitude of prayer. The frustrations of speaking truth to people who don’t want you to topple their sacred cows can blind us to those who (as we once did) honestly want the truth.
Consider the apostle John’s remarks, referring to the apostolic teaching preserved in the New Testament.
5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. ~~1 John 4:5-6 (ESV)
I see a terrible trend among evangelicals to make compromises with various worldly philosophies, and those compromises distress me. Sometimes my frustration boils over, and I fail to temper my zeal for truth with compassion and understanding. I forget where I’ve come from in my own walk with the Lord, or else I get so annoyed with the deceptions I once believed that I lose sight of the fact that they ensnare precious children of God who desperately need proper teaching.
Jude, after concentrating the bulk of his epistle on the condemnation of false teachers, gives us interesting instructions on ministering to the victims of those teachers.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ~~Jude 17-22 (ESV)
Although I began quoting at verse 17 for the sake of context, I want a focus on verses 22 and 23. Notice Jude’s tender concern for victims of false teachers. He calls us to treat these people with mercy, not as enemies.
False teachers leave severely damaged people in their wake. Those of us who have been delivered from false teaching mustn’t forget how gently and patiently the Lord worked with us. Rather than vindictively chasing after the false teachers, whom God has already designated for condemnation anyway (see Jude 4), we most effectively contend for the faith by encouraging their victims to return to sound doctrine. And that happens as we remain in Scripture and direct them back to Scripture.