Satan approached Eve and told her that the only reason God restricted them from eating the “Forbidden Fruit” was because God knew it would make them like God. By implying God had ulterior motives, Satan created an avenue through which he could manipulate Eve. Humans learned a terrible lesson that day about the power of speaking evil of others, and now, even thousands of years later, that lesson continuously reverberates in our behavior as a whole.
Nowhere is this behavior more reprehensible (and common) than when people use this technique to engage in “church wars”.
Behind The Scenes: How It Begins
These are battles that go on behind closed doors. Movements begin. Campaigns decided upon, people wage this warfare for the hearts and minds of whole churches. We’ve all heard stories and may have survived a few attacks ourselves, emerging bloodied and bruised (hopefully not literally, but sometimes so). This can be some of the most hurtful behavior in the world, and those claiming Christ should never participate! But, sadly, it is all too easy and common.
Think of how it happens. It is a process already divulged in the book of James. People have needs (real or imagined) and this leads to desires. These desires, if based on God’s word, are useful and good. But so often our desires are not based on the information revealed in the Word. Oh, we might find a “book, chapter, and verse” to “prove” that what we want is godly, but that does not mean the desire is from God. We look at the paths before us, and if we are especially observant, we might even notice various alternatives. Most of the time, however, we see only what we already think is the best pathway. And that, again, is based on the information we tell ourselves.
So, we form in our minds a plan. If we are religious people, we might even manipulate the Bible in order to convince ourselves of the righteousness of our plan. This is how churches begin to divide.
Frankly (and thankfully) most people do not have the courage of their convictions and do not pursue a matter to the division of a church, but some do. The kind of person required to cause such division is a zealous one, bent upon having his way–even, perhaps, while thinking his way is the godly one. Instead of pursuing godly desires, this person zealously pursues what turns out to be selfish desires. James 3:14 says that this is the result of “bitter envy and self-seeking”. [For a discussion of that, go here.]
These are battles for control of the thoughts and behavior of others under the guise of a benevolent and godly religious system. That attempt at control can manifest itself in manipulation through guilt and shame. It can also reveal itself through speaking evil of others.
This is a common practice of cults. Convince adherents that the rest of the world is evil, and you can more easily control what influences them. Control what influences them, and you control them.
But we need not look to cults as the only culprits of this atrocious behavior. Preachers, elders, deacons, church members of any responsibility can engage in this sinful, ungodly behavior.
While there may be many applications of James 4:11-12, this is a common problem in churches.
What About The “Good Warfare”?
But what about Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:18? He wrote that Timothy should “wage the good warfare.” Our mission is to defend truth and win others to the Gospel. The difference here lies in both tactics and purpose. Our purpose must be to win people to the Gospel, not our own agendas and ideas, even if those ideas seem incredibly helpful or valuable to us. Our tactics should always be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We must not follow Satan’s ways to do the Lord’s work.
The Common Tactic
The control of others begins in whispers. People talk about others and judge their actions, even when they have the right to do what they are doing. This is what James stated in James 4:11.
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother,speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Most of the time, when people focus on the supposed sin of others (and the activity is actually not sin), it is because of envy or self-promotion. These people will actually campaign rigorously against others, creating false accusations, questioning every motive and activity. They will talk to anyone who will listen, spreading the accusations so that those people will also follow them in their war. Sometimes people gain a lot of power in this way, but it would all be taken away if we would stop and realize what is happening.
Let us be very careful that we are not trying to gain followers by speaking evil against others. Let us be careful not to judge people unfairly. Above all, let us seek the peace that comes through godly wisdom, and we will avoid all of these evil things. Pay attention to your needs, and make godly decisions based on the Word of God for finding fulfillment, and you will avoid speaking evil of the law.
Let’s engage in the spiritual warfare God has assigned us, and in the right manner.
Are you fighting the good fight of the faith?
See you tomorrow!