Month 3:3, Week 1:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year 5935:059 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 4 June 2011
Proof by Nastiness?
How to Resolve Controversies Amicably
Quite a controversy seems to have flared up in messianic circles in recent times over the divine calendar. I am not one who personally likes controversy (what shalom-loving soul does) and I dislike debating and infighting amongst believers. That is not because I believe we should pretend controversy does not exist, or that it is somehow 'sinful' to have disagreements, because controversy is a result of man's natural condition, and controversy does need to be resolved when it can be. Indeed, Yahweh has appointed judges in the congregations precisely to resolve controversy: "In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My (Yahweh's) judgments" (Ezek.44:24, NKJV).
No, the main difficulty or problem with controversy is that grace is often the main victim of such contests. The way that we, as believers, resolve our differences is - whether we like it or not - part of our witness to unbelievers. So the main issue in any disagreement as far as the public is concerned is not just whether we are right or wrong but how we handle our differences.
For many people, being right is the 'main thing' because it's a matter of ego, pride and reputation amongst followers. For Yahweh, being 'right' is important (because that is what 'righteousness' is) but equally important to the genuinely righteous man is the spirit in which controversy is resolved. And that spirit in which authentic believers operate is always supposed to be grace - undeserved loving kindness or unmerited favour - which, it might be argued, is one of the chief hallmarks of a true talmid (disciple) of Yah'shua (Jesus). How are we to be known in the world? "By purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), by sincere ahavah (love)" (2 Cor.6:6, NKJV). We are not to be known by brain power, our ability to debate or anything which is of the self.
The reason I am setting apart today's devotional to this topic is because of an unfortunate tendency on the part of some to try and score points off other's character weaknesses when it comes to doctrinal controversy. It would be a tragedy indeed if we were to establish doctrinal truth based on the character defects of our opponents. In the latest controversy over the calendar it is now being said that since some lunar sabbatarians are being nasty and defensive over their positions that this is evidence that they are backing a defective teaching. My advice to those involved in any kind of doctrinal controversy is to avoid those who use character assassination - directly or by implication - as part of their defence or attack.
There are, sadly, some very uncharitable lunar sabbatarians and there are some very uncharitable solar sabbatarians but their uncharity does not establish or disprove their doctrinal positions. It equally as possible for someone who is charitable to be in doctrinal error as it is for someone to be mean-spirited but doctrinally right. Before anything else, there must, though, be charity by opponents one for another before any kind of discussion is admitted for the pure and simple reason that onlookers, by default, tend to be swayed by cleverness, forceful or humerous personality, or other human traits. - We tend, alas, to be subjective when objectivity is called for.
As Christians and Messianics, however, we are not politicians! This is not a question of how smooth at talking we are or how self-controlled we are in a debate. Politicians fool us time and time again by their slick deliveries - such behaviour should not be tolerated amongst believers. A measure of a believer's greatness is that he knows these things but does not use his character strengths as a lever to persuade people to accept his beliefs - he will always separate himself, his feelings, skills and giftedness, from Yah's Word. He wants Yahweh to speak for Himself and to do the persuading.
Quite recently a Messianic, who also accepts the Book of Mormon (which I absolutely do not), who is trying to woo other Messianics to her belief system, recently claimed she had scored a victory over me because I would not debate with her or study more of her materials, claiming that people like me always responded that way to her. Frankly, I do not respond to emotional manipulation nor do I allow myself to be baited, because this is not the spirit of Messiah. So it came as a great disappointment to read the comments of a solar sabbatarian who basically claimed a victory because one of his opponents was flummoxed by this questions and got nasty. The truth is, we all get flummoxed sometimes and we can all get nasty from time-to-time, regrettably. We do need to be mature enough to recognise that the emet (truth) of a matter is not established by human character weaknesses and frailties. We have to look past these deficiencies in each other and not allow ourselves to be swayed or provoked by them.
A test of spiritual maturity is, in my view, the ability not to get upset by differences, not to confuse people with emet (truth), that is, to clearly separate principles from personalities. One of the reasons I no longer get involved in online debates is because personality - and therefore egotism - becomes indistinguishable from the real issues. In the end, it is usually all about one person proving himself right instead of about rightness itself. Yahweh receives no honour or glory in these exchanges. Far better that believers are trained to walk in humility and self-abasement (Phil.2:3).
Having said this, we do absolutely need valiant men of Yahweh with passionate convictions, men who regard true principles to be of far greater value than possessions or position. Unfortunately far too many men are more interested in defending their positions or ministries than they are Yahweh's emet (truth) and such can never be impartial nor can they indeed be pure vessels to receive heavenly revelation. They have vested interests other than Yahweh's approbation. Our only concern has to be Yahweh Himself, not our ministries or salaries (if we have any - I do not), and to let the emet (truth) defend itself. We have to be willing to live alone, if necessary, in the face of hostility from even our nearest and dearest, if we are to have any hope of living in the light of revelation. Our moral virtue has to be to serve Yahweh before all others by allowing no man or woman to come between him and his Elohim (God). Being valiant in defence of true principles has always been, and will always be, the mark of a true man of Elohim (God). One writer puts it this way:
I count as my friends and brethren Saturday sabbatarians and Sunday worshippers. I sincerely believe they are wrong and will have to face the facts one day (as in all areas of controversy), and sooner rather than later, but I refuse to disfellowship or publically attack them when I know they are truly born again, are loving Yah'shua (Jesus) with all their levim (hearts) and desire to serve Him with all their beings. So what that they may be in error? I had the same passions and loves as they do when I was in error but I know that Yahweh bore patiently with me as I searched for the emet (truth) without allowing myself to be pressurised or guilted because I did not at the time believe in the same way as those who were right. Those who gave me spiritual, mental and emotional space I returned to for counsel and instruction - those who pressed me, even when they were right, I avoided like the plague even though I did privately study their written materials.
"Those who are lame need a crutch; the semi-blind need glasses; but for some strange reason the spiritually weak need each other. But righteous men and prophets are not in servitude to other men, nor do they want anyone in servitiude to them. The mind was never meant to be subject to compulsion or dependence on others. The man who surrenders his mind to another is as guilty as the man who seeks to control it. Those who are willing to make such submissions are either physical slaves or spiritual parasites. That man who must be spiritually fed by another is like a baby that is spoon fed on the milk of the gospel. If he believes in such dependency, he will lose his spiritual dignity...
"...a humble man is one who only desires to serve [Yahweh]. He doesn't care who has spoken, but rather what is spoken. He measures and respects men for the true principles they advocate, but his heart and service is in [Yahweh]. The laws of the community, the laws of the land, or the laws of the world are secondary to the laws of Elohim (God). He knwos there is no bargain basement principles of the gospel - and to obtain the blessings [of heaven], he must pay the same price with the same principles that all the prophets have had to pay. His trust, then, is in [Yahweh] and not in the arm of flesh" (O.Kraut, Principles or Personalities).
The real spiritual quality of man, that will justify him in the eternities, lies not in his being doctrinally correct but in his willingness to learn all emet (truth). He must, however, ultimately be taught by Yahweh for that emet (truth) to have any lasting impact. We can only be witnesses and leave the rest to the conviction of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit).
We all have to make tough decisions in these matters. My resoluteness in standing by what Yahweh has shown me has cost me several ministries, family members, my reputation, my job and my health. Some of these losses have, admittedly, in part been my own fault, but others are for standing squarely on the emet (truth). Are you prepared to do this, or is your popularity and acceptance more important? Are you willing to walk alone if necessary and lose all for Yahweh?
The doctrinal strife between believers is not necessary if they are walking in the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) as opposed to their own cleverness. It is infinitely more important to be walking in shalom (peace) and grace than it is to win doctrinal points. Doctrine is important and I passionately defend it but will not force it down any man's throat or try to prove he is wrong by attacking his personality. I have, if the truth be known, learned a lot from people I find obnoxious but I only fellowship with those who walk in shalom.
"It is through many hardships that we must enter the Kingdom of Elohim (God)" (Ac.14:22, JNT).
May you find grace as you patiently and gracefully walk with brethren of different beliefs, and trust Yahweh to show you and them the emet (truth) in His own time and in His own way. He knows what penetrates the human lev (heart) because He alone knows the inner complexities of each soul. Leave Him to do the hard part!