I’ve had a few conversations recently in which people have discussed that as Christians we should be united. To that I give a hearty Amen!
However, there are doctrinal issues, matter of belief and understanding of God’s Word, that mean we won’t be united with others. Admittedly too often such divisions aren’t based on primary issues, but secondary matters, which is a shame.
But the Bible is pretty clear that we should not hang around with false teachers, we shouldn’t entertain their teachings and we shouldn’t recommend them to other people.
In 1 John 4:1 we are told to test everything. All teaching that we hear needs to be checked with Scripture to see if it is faithful and glorifying to Christ. If it isn’t, then we must speak to the person (if we can, for example, in our own church) or we must warn others about that individual and their teaching (for example with well-known speakers, ministry leaders, singer/songwriters and authors).
But with what attitude?
We can have all the doctrinal orthodoxy in the world, we can know the ins and outs of Scripture and be able to explain anything from a Systematic Theology point of view, but if we don’t have love then it’s pointless. If all of our doctrine, if all of our knowledge about God and His Word is not lived out in a deep love for Him, His Church, His people and the Lost then something is not right.
Too often I’ve seen, and been guilty of it myself, someone argue that an individual is teaching false doctrine but they’ve done it in a proud ‘I know best’ attitude. This is sad and damaging! People should never rejoice in calling out false teachers and never be happy that they’ve ‘finally caught them out’. But rather we should mourn as we correct a brother or sister, we should be sad that someone had deviated from what the Bible teaches and we should plead with them to return to their first love (Rev. 2:4).
Whenever we hear teaching we need to check it and test to see if it’s correct and when we see false teaching or disagreements between Christians we need to check and test our attitudes before we act!
Any action taken or any word spoken to correct someone else should be rooted in a love for the individual, rooted in a desire to see them being faithful and rooted in a desire to see them glorifying God with their lives. If this is not the motivation then we need to be warned that we could be becoming proud Pharisees who simply ‘know better’. All of our doctrine, all of our beliefs about God and the Bible should make us love Him and people.
Some of the most humble and loving people I’ve met have had an amazing understanding of the Bible and theology, have had a comprehensive view of what they believe and why. But the thing that you’ll walk away from a conversation with them knowing is that “they love Jesus and His people”
We do need to call out false teachers, we do need to know that there are doctrinal issues that will separate us and cause division. But we also need to know that our ‘opinion’ isn’t always right, that our motives aren’t always pure and that our hearts are just as fallen as they have always been.
Our doctrine should inform how we live, speak, think and sleep, it should change our whole lives and not least our hearts. We are called to know our stuff, to wrestle with God’s Word and our knowledge of Him but that understanding must be translated into a life of humble service of our Great God!
“Watch your life and doctrine closely” 1Tim. 4:16
Sound doctrine is hugely important and so is a heart that is willing to be corrected, a heart that is willing to correct others out of love and a heart that’s only desire is to be a good and faithful servant of God!