Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Michael J. Brooks
I enjoyed teaching a study a few months ago but puzzled over a comment the textbook author made: “Sometimes we [Christians] have to wound one another.” I realize he was talking about confrontation when a brother or sister steps off the path of righteousness, but the word struck me as harsh.
Another church member helped me when he reminded us that the biblical word is “admonish.” We admonish one another, in love, when we entreat others to return to a life of obedience to the Lord.
There are three possible reactions when we’re admonished by a brother or sister in the faith.
One is to assign the admonishment to the trash heap, denying the truth of it. We decide the advice is misplaced and simply smile sweetly to our would-be helper.
The second possibility is to own our wrong, apologize and promise to do better.
But the third possible reaction is to sidestep blame and point to someone else as the reason we messed up. As Tammy Wynette sang years ago, “You’re the reason our kids are ugly!”
The absolute worst way to sidestep is to blame God for our error.
I’ve occasionally heard this excuse when people say, “But God led me to do thus and so.” But the alleged thing labeled “God’s will” was a disaster. As a friend says, “God, don’t do trainwrecks!”
The prophet Jeremiah wrestled with many things in his difficult ministry. One of them was the fact that he was in the minority. The other prophets said one thing, and he another. The false prophets claimed to be speaking for God, but Jeremiah said their sources were only their dreams, or stealing words from other false prophets. They didn’t get their words from God.
A Baptist deacon told me about his pastor prolonging a meeting for two hours sharing ministry goals “God gave me.” The plan included six or seven projects, and were alliterated like a preacher does his sermons, as in “peace, power and praise.”
One wonders why God, speaking from the throne room of heaven, would need to use a cute outline to make his will known!
Furthermore, what is the reaction when someone says, “God told me”? This claim can be a barrier one hides behind to silence opposing opinions. Surely God speaks to others, too.
Knowing and doing the will of God is a precious thing, but we need to be cautious in declaring it. Wise leaders say, “I believe this is God’s will for me (or us). Will you pray with me and see if he’s leading you in this matter, too?”
Jeremiah said God’s plans for us are always good ones (Jeremiah 29:11).
God don’t do trainwrecks.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.