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Newsletters


Criticizing Christians

 

By Dr. Richard Ing
March 18, 2008

THE INTEGRITY OF THE BODY

During our last trip to the Philippines, we spent over nine hours traveling by van to Abra where we gave a pastors’ conference that was not particularly fruitful inasmuch as the pastors did not receive the message of Christmas and the deception of Pre-tribulation Rapture very well.  It seemed that some came to see if they could receive financial support from us.  When we announced at the beginning that we had not come to give money, some left.  Others were there just to avoid criticism from the pastors’ organization that had sponsored the event.  They were there in body, but not in spirit.  We were challenged vigorously about our position against the prosperity message.  We were not warmly received and when we left there were no handshakes.
From Abra, we were on the way to another seminar site when we were informed that the seminar had been cancelled because the sponsoring church had no money for the event.  It was strange that no one contacted us to let us know in advance.  We were almost at their doorstep when we called them by cell phone and discovered the cancellation.  Therefore we traveled for another nine hours back to the mission house and had a flat tire in the middle of the night on a busy rural two-lane highway.  We got back to the mission house at 3:30 a.m. and the team was exhausted.  One of our team members got flu symptoms while in Abra.

During the next few days, tempers were short and the team began grumbling and complaining, including yours truly.  During the second night back, God gave a team member a dream that clearly chastised us for becoming critical of the brethren.  In the dream, the team member saw a cat nursing at her breast.  The cat looked up and said, “Why are you giving me all of your milk?”  She then saw a man who was obviously dead.  His chest had been torn open like a can of sardines and a lance pierced his heart.  The Holy Spirit gave me the interpretation even as she was speaking.  He said, “You have all become accusers of the brethren and are doing Satan’s work!”
We repented and called the leaders into a meeting.  We all repented and asked forgiveness from one another.  That afternoon, we started a spiritual warfare seminar that turned out to be the most anointed seminar we have ever had, bar none.  Demons came out screaming and everyone at the seminar was delivered.  All the men were also set free.  It was unusual because in almost every seminar a group of people, especially men, resist deliverance or are not delivered.  The anointing was very high.
The next morning, I was sitting at the dining room table chatting with two team members when one of them saw a huge angel standing by the front door.  He was so tall that his head was above the ceiling.  He had a scroll in his hands.

Because of the scroll, I believe that it was the same angel we saw in Lal-lo in 1998 and 2001, that announced a great revival in the northern provinces of the Philippines was coming.  God was giving us a message:  When the church is in perfect unity, nothing will stop us and revival/harvest will start.

IDLE GOSSIP

In Numbers 12, we find the following:

And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?  hath he not spoken also by us?  And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)  Nu. 12:1-3.
 
Miriam was the older sister of Moses and a prophetess; Aaron was the older brother and the head priest of Israel.  Moses had broken family and cultural rules by not gaining the consent of his older siblings before he married.  In addition, his wife was an Ethiopian or Cushite, known for their dark skin, and not a Hebrew.  They were just gossiping between themselves.  Why was God angry at them?

For one thing, God is not constrained by man’s customs and traditions.  Moses may have been the youngest, but he was God’s choice to lead the people.  In God’s eyes, Moses did no wrong.  The bigger problem was that Miriam and Aaron bragged that God spoke to them, and not only to Moses.  That put them on the same level with God as Moses.

Criticizing one of God’s leaders puts one on the same level or higher than the one being criticized.  God said,

Hear My words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?  And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed.  Nu. 12:6-9.

God made it known that Moses was on a higher level.  God would speak to prophets in visions and dreams, but He would speak to Moses face to face, clearly as a friend and Moses would see the Lord directly.  How could they dare compare themselves to Moses?

No one has a right to unduly criticize a Christian higher in rank than himself or lower, for that matter, unless he or she has a duty to train that Christian.  Even than, it must be done in love and righteousness.  It is both pride and rebellion otherwise.  Rebellion will not go unnoticed by God.

As a result, God struck Miriam with leprosy.  Verse 10.  Aaron immediately said unto Moses, “Alas, my Lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.”  Verse 11.  Aaron wisely humbled himself and submitted to Moses.  He called his younger brother, “my Lord,” and acknowledged his sin.  God spared Aaron.

Why did God strike Miriam with leprosy and not touch Aaron?  Perhaps it was because Miriam was the one who initiated the conversation and the guiltier of the two.  After all, the scriptures start off with, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses . . . .”  Verse 1.  It implies that Miriam was the instigator and chief culprit since her name came before Aaron’s.  It is only a guess.

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

God wants us to respect His appointed leaders and submit to them.  They are God’s delegated authorities.  Obeying God’s delegated authorities is the same as obeying God Himself.  Many Christians think that they have no trouble obeying God, but their obedience to God is no higher than their obedience to delegated authorities and their respect towards God no greater than their respect towards their delegated leaders.  Therefore, it is important to know if someone is higher in authority than you.

There are times when a leader has the responsibility and duty to point out things that another leader has said or done in error, in order to protect the sheep God has given him.  He is also justified in sharing things with other leaders, provided that his intention is not to gossip or unduly point fingers, but rather to inform other leaders so that the latter can protect their own sheep or avoid future problems.

Talking about Christians, leaders or otherwise, must not have any hint or tinge of maliciousness, bitterness or pride.  It is well-known that people often criticize others to boost themselves up.  Bringing people down to your level through malicious gossip is not God’s way.  In Hawaii, we often say that you can put aama crabs in a bucket and never worry about them crawling upwards and out because the other crabs in the bucket will invariably pull them back down.
    
WHERE AND WHEN

Even when leaders talk among themselves and point out deficiencies in others, it is not good for them to speak in front of other Christians who are not leaders themselves, or in front of unbelievers.  The Christians on a lower level have little or no responsibility towards others in terms of informing them of wayward leaders and other Christians, or have little understanding.  Therefore, to them it is mere gossip.  Unbelievers will laugh in their hearts when they hear Christians criticizing one another.  

Although King Saul tried many times to kill David and was disobedient towards God, David knew that Saul had been chosen by God and anointed to be the first king of Israel.  To criticize Saul would dishonor God and would be tantamount to calling God stupid for having chosen Saul.  Even when Saul died in battle, David instructed his people as follows:  “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.”  2 Sa. 1:20.  David was protecting Saul’s reputation, but most of all he was protecting God’s reputation and right to choose His own leaders.

When we talk about other Christians, we may be justified in certain situations, but we need to be very careful to protect and maintain the integrity of the body of Christ.  Other leaders and saints may make mistakes, but be careful that the heathen do not rejoice in our disunity and lack of integrity.  Broadcasting to the heathen and weaker Christians that there are crooks, hypocrites, liars and deceivers among us does not honor God and Christianity.

It is obvious that God wants us to climb up to a higher level with Him in terms of integrity and unity.  In the end times, Satan is going to split the Church into many fragments and pieces.  Already, there are over 7,500 Christian denominations, independents and cults in America alone.  Some report that there are over 33,500 Christian denominations and separate groups in the world.  In the end, hardly any Christian will trust another Christian.  Let us not add to the chaos.  Watch your tongue.

THE ARMY OF GOD

The army of God is described in Joel 2:7-8 as follows:  “(T)hey shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his ;path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.”  No soldier in the army of God will criticize, rebel, break ranks and stab another in the back.  Each will be totally humble, submissive, obedient to higher authority.  

We need to know and acknowledge those that are higher in rank than we are.  In a democracy, we are taught that everyone is equal under the law; but in God’s kingdom, it is not so.  God places certain people into ranks and positions higher than others, for His own purposes.  It does not mean that the leaders are better than others in terms of spiritual maturity or righteousness.  It means that God has a right to choose those He will use to carry out His plans.

Watchman Nee says that we need to be very careful when talking about or dealing with the Church, its leaders and members.  God is watching and hearing.  Nee claims that when we walk into a room of Christians, the first thing we need to do is look around to find those with higher authority in the group.  Once that is determined, submit and obey them.  

The Bible is filled with stories about God’s judgments against those that rebel.  According to Nee, it is easier to be forgiven for sins against God’s commandments than it is to be forgiven for rebellion against God’s delegated authorities.  The penalties are much higher for rebellion.  Sinning against God’s authorities is dangerous because it indicates rebellion against God Himself.

God will strive to protect His authority, whether you agree with that delegated authority or not.  If an authority is in error, God will handle that person and problem.  It is not our duty to deal with that person.  It is our duty to protect the sheep.  

If we aspire to greatness in the true church, as a member of God’s army or as a martyr, we need to pray that God will take out every speck of pride and rebellion from us.  Gossip and speaking badly about another Christian is a dangerous venture.  Be careful.

GUILE

In Revelation 14, we find mention of the army of God standing with the Lamb on the mount Sion.  “And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”  Rev. 14:5.  What is guile?  Guile means cunning, slyness, wiliness, craftiness, cleverness, deviousness, deceit, lies, duplicity, trickiness, sneakiness, dishonesty, secret agendas, secret personal plans and schemes, duplicity.  We should deal with each other with no secrets or hidden agendas or things that we are hiding from one another.  I used to handle divorce cases as an attorney and found that many spouses had secrets their spouses never knew or thought that they never knew.  Wives and husbands often had hidden bank accounts or were using money for their own purposes without telling the other, or were having secret relationships outside of marriage.

We need to be open and frank with each other and not sneak around, withholding things and information that should be revealed.  Everything should be out in the open and truthful, not sly and clever or tricky.  Secrets destroy relationships.

I recall years ago, an evangelist from a Third World country came to our church and preached about doing missionary work in his country.  He was a good speaker and convinced us to let him set up crusades and meetings for us.  We gave him over $1,700 and he left to arrange things.  When we got there, we had a few meetings at a church in the capital city, but when it came time to go north, he declared that our crusade meetings were canceled because the Communist had overrun the town and the place was dangerous.  We couldn’t get our money back because it had already been spent on banners, tracts, announcements, and so forth.  Meanwhile, God gave our pastor’s wife, 1 Corinthians 7:7, about brethren defrauding brethren.  We didn’t know what it meant exactly at the time. The evangelist disappeared.  Later, we found out that he had used the money to get himself an office, a car and a refrigerator.

Ambitious and cunning people with hidden agendas, secret activities and self-promotion are dangerous to the body of Christ.  They cause suspicion, distrust and division.  Worse, they are dangerous to themselves and are in danger of losing their salvation.  Rev. 21:8.  Let us be completely open with one another.  There is too much at stake.  Let us not become accusers of the brethren.


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