Just read an email by some members in my church that greatly encouraged me and simultaneously broke my heart. It was regarding the teaching of free-will and some family members who identify themselves as “reformed” and attend a reformed baptist church.
After reading their email, I just wanted to write a post of my own to my fellow reformed brethren. Unfortunately, this is not the first of this kind of feedback I’ve received from believers and unbelievers.
Please hear my heart.
To my reformed brethren,
I love your zeal for God’s truth in Scripture. I love your zeal for wanting Scripture to be taught soundly. I love your fidelity to Scripture, especially in a day when subjectivism and relativism are heralded as truth, and even among many professing believers. For this I will fist-bump you in agreement all day.
But some of you are crushing the spirit of believers and unbelievers. How some of you teach and disciple are turning some folk into pharisees and causing others to close their ears to anything that smells or hints “reformed”.
Some of you, probably unknowingly, are not discipling your people to be winsome but distasteful; not to learn, live, and teach in humility but in arrogance. Some of your people are mean and dogmatic rather than loving and reasonable.
There’s no 2Tim. 2:24-26,
“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (NASB)
There’s no Col. 4:5-6,
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB)
There’s no meekness and fear when doing 1Pet. 3:15,
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV)
Where’s the open-mindedness with brethren from differing but non-heretical doctrinal views, like we see exhibited by Jesus in Mark 9:38-40,
““Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (NIV)
Some of you might not realize you’re doing harm to the kingdom in the ways you go about teaching and discipling. If there’s less of the character of Jesus being produced in those you disciple, teach, and pour into and more dogma and doctrinal-righteousness, that’s a problem. A huge one. Jesus warned His twelve to be careful of the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:5-12).
The reason I’m addressing those who this would apply to (e.g. leaders, pastors, teachers, parents, disciplers, writers/authors), because Scripture displays like people, like priest (Isa. 24:2, Hos. 4:9). They’re getting this ugly, non-Christlike attitude from you. This should cut you to the heart, if it’s true of you.
I sincerely pray God softens your heart to pray and discern if this applies to you and then to repent if it does or to personally address another in love if someone else comes to mind.
It is not a petty thing if it hurts the Body (Luke 17:1-3, Acts 9:3-5, Rom. 12:9-10; 14:21, 1Cor. 12:26). And I have heard, counseled, and mentored many a believer (and a few unbelievers) who were specifically hurt by the smugness and graceless attitudes of other professing “reformed” believers, leaders, teachers, pastors, and churches. I, myself, used to be one of those smug and graceless attitudes that hurt others, until the Holy Spirit had someone lovingly call me out.
I know this is a long shot that someone would read this and be convicted to change. But if it touches even one person in the right way, then it was worth it.
I have prayed for everyone that would read this. May God be glorified through the repentance of His people and the healthy discipling of His children.
A fellow reformed brother
PS: To my brethren who have been hurt or turned off by the words, attitudes, and actions of some reformed believers.
Please forgive them as you have been forgiven.
Please do not hold this against others who would theologically identify themselves as reformed. Allow our individual characters to speak for us individually and not the others who have harmed/offended you. It is sad that I cannot mention I hold to reformed theology until after a person gets to know me, because whenever that topic comes up I am judged by the words, attitudes, and actions of another.
Please do not swing the pendulum to the far opposite theological side (or worse into a heretical view) as a reaction of defiance to those people. It is the heart of the person that those words, attitudes, and actions flow from, not the biblical doctrine they hold (otherwise it’s not “biblical”).
Please pray for them, and pray for yourself that you don’t become guilty of some sin (similar or different than theirs) in your reaction to how you were treated. I have prayed for you too.