Saturday, February 12, 2011

Armchair Quarterbacks

There is a disturbing trend occurring in the Christian community.  It is more predominant in places such as Facebook and web sites like this blog, where one is free to express opinions without actually physically revealing oneself.  And because those who administer these sites are not face-to-face with another human being, it is much easier to take more license in finger-pointing and blame, especially when it comes to correcting others who are misled.

This forced me to ask a vital question.  Has our great disdain for false teachings from wolves that have slipped in amongst the flock caused our hearts to unknowingly hate and despise those who do not understand?  Have we become prideful over the discernment so preciously given us from the Holy Spirit?  Do we find ourselves casting aspersions on those less taught in God’s Truths, instead of employing the instructions we have been given in Scripture on how we should react or behave?

The world is full of spiritual armchair quarterbacks.  They are smug in their understanding of the rules of the game, and they are quick to throw out the penalty flags when one is broken.  However, they are quite content to remain in their comfortable position of a critic on the sidelines, pointing out the obvious errors of others, than to be an active participant.  Fear of having their self-imposed expertise in spiritual matters exposed keeps them hiding behind the image they have created on the internet.  It is much easier to hand out a 10-yard penalty to another misguided or naïve Christian, or to throw him completely out of the game, than to gently steer him back onto the playing field.

Oswald Chambers once said, “Always remain alert to the fact that where one man has gone back is exactly where anyone may go back…Unguarded strength is double weakness.”

There is danger in thinking you are secure in your faith and immune to mistakes or errors in judgment.  The reality is that each and every one of us, regardless of how we perceive the level of our spirituality, is capable of making them.  We are apt to forget that we are powerless without the Lord’s strength to carry us.  The apostle Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore, let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.”  Pride is the greatest deceiver.  It is also the least recognized character flaw that we see in ourselves.

All that we are taught as Truth can create in us an unhealthy piety that is apt to spill out upon the unlearned or unsaved as arrogance.  When we allow anger or impatience to overrule, the results can divide the body of Christ, or drive away the unrepentant sinner.  Pride and a “haughty spirit” always come before we stumble and fall (Prov. 16:18).  To elevate oneself through a misguided notion that you are wiser than your brothers and sisters could very well cause you to find yourself in the penalty box (1Cor 3:18).  It is there, in the “horror of great darkness” (Gen 15:12) that God gets us alone with Him so that He can instruct as in His ways and direct us towards spiritual maturity.

As we sit under God’s tutelage, His desire is that we see ourselves as nothing more than immature scholars in need of further instruction.  To believe that we have attained all there is to know from Him while we languish here on earth proves that we need to go back to the 50-yard line and start the game over.  We have only just begun to understand the complexities and mysteries of our Creator.  It will take us an eternity to fully comprehend all that He is and all that He has done.  But while we are here, none of us should think ourselves wiser than another.  Nor should we lord over others the small bit of wisdom we have attained.  Until we reach the pinnacle that we are aiming for, until the Lord makes “unto us wisdom” (1Cor 1:30), we will never be “wise unto salvation” (2Tim 3:15) and our testimony or witness will be minimal, at best.

When we are confronted with bad doctrine or false teaching in others, we must use gentleness in our reproach, rather than sound like a zealous fanatic.  The one who has a sincere desire to help fellow Christians stay firmly planted on the foundation of good doctrine and sound Biblical teaching puts them before him, even at the cost of being mistreated. He is able to endure ridicule or rejection because he has placed his trust in God’s strength, not his own.  By employing a humble attitude and a patient tenderness for those who are being misled, he is able to reason with others through the Word of God, thereby pursuing peace and unity in the brotherhood of Christ (Prov. 10:12).

God has bestowed upon His children a unique gift.  One could say that He has graciously placed the ball in our hands.  More importantly, He expects us to follow His playbook.  Each of us has been assigned a position on the field, and we are to work together as a team.  If one member decides to sit out a portion of the game and quarterback from the sidelines, the whole body suffers by having to bear the extra burden of attaining the goal - to bring God glory, honor, and praise through His Son Jesus Christ.

The Lord has effectively placed Himself on the internet; to instruct, to exhort, to draw the lost.  We can be thankful for that because the enemy is also hard at work here.  Satan is patiently lurking behind every word written on Facebook or other websites, waiting for one of us to stumble and to use it to his advantage.  And his methods are deceptive.

There may be times that it is appropriate to use harsher and more forceful words in our dialogues, but patience should always accompany them.  We should never find ourselves in a pious attitude like an armchair quarterback yelling from the sidelines, allowing it to divide us or overpower the love we have for each other and our service to God in assisting a brother or sister who is struggling.  We need to rise up out of the chair and actively become a team member, even if it means waiting for an opportunity on the bench to enter the fray.

As we serve the Lord on the world-wide web, we would do well to remember Paul’s words in Romans 12:

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you…Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  (Rom 12:3, 10)

The prize awaiting us for Christ’s victory is in view.  He has already won the game and the trophy is waiting in the end zone.  Now, with love, patience, and gentleness toward our brethren, let us assist each other in reaching that goal.

Additional reading:

Romans 15:1-7
Galatians 6:1-10
1Thessalonians 5:14
1Peter 3:8-10

No comments: