The Deadly Mistake Of Minding Your Own Business

He was the rock. He was a foundational leader of the church. But he wasn’t above being called out when he was wrong.

 

Peter was eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). At first, that doesn’t seem like much to me because, well, I’m a Gentile. But Peter had spent his entire life living by the strict dietary restrictions we find in the Old Testament. Things changed in Acts 10 when God gave Peter a vision of several unclean animals in a sheet and said every hunter’s favorite Bible verse, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-13). My friend calls this the first pig in a blanket.

So a little while later Peter finds himself doing the unthinkable. Eating with Gentiles. And I’m sure that he loved the taste of those pulled pork sandwiches and catfish. Something like that. You get the picture.

But then some of the Jewish elites showed up. And when they did, Peter was caught. Should he stay at the Gentile table at that proverbial New Testament high school cafeteria or should he go back to sit with his old friends. Peter went back to his old friends. But it was more than just nostalgia that pulled Peter away from the Gentile table. It was fear.

The message was clear from Peter. “Gentiles, I’m with you and this new covenant until my people show up and then it’s back to the old way. It’s been real.”

Thankfully, Paul was there and his message to Peter was even clearer. He opposed Peter publicly.

[14] But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, llive like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 (ESV)

Here’s a translation of what Paul said. “Peter, why do you hold the Gentiles to standards that you can’t even keep?”

This was a pivotal time for the church. Peter was influential and his hypocrisy could have led the young movement back into the self-righteousness that they had been delivered from. Paul’s open confrontation could have caused a major split between he and Peter and, by extension, the church as a whole.

But it didn’t. And for that, we have Peter to thank.

Paul doesn’t tell us how Peter responded to being held accountable by the former murderer turned missionary to the Gentiles. Did he storm out of the room? Did he post a vague Facebook status in all caps about people needing to, “Mind their own business?”

One of Peter’s letters, written years after this incident gives us a good clue.

[15]  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

Peter refers to Paul, the one who rebuked him years earlier, as, “Our beloved brother” and speaks of him having God-given wisdom. He acknowledges that Paul’s words can be hard to understand and easy to to distort but he finishes with a very important assessment of Paul’s letters. They are part of the Scriptures. That is, they carry the authority of God’s word.

We need Paul’s in our life. We need people who care enough about us and the gospel to lovingly correct us when we are wrong. The very worst thing that could happen to the church or to you as an individual is for everyone around you to, “Mind their own business.”

And when those people do step in to lovingly hold you accountable, it does no good unless you respond like Peter and accept their authority and wisdom. Use their words as an opportunity to examine your life.

My growth in my walk with Christ has little to nothing to do with my own individual perseverance. It has much more to do with God putting people in my life who love me too much to, “Mind their own business.” I pray that he does the same for you.

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All the Devil Needs

I’ve been a Christian for a long time.  For most of that time I’ve also been a baptist.  Growing up in the church, I quickly learned that there are two ways for Christians to do things.

The baptist way and the Spirit way.

Sometimes the baptist way and the Spirit way are the same thing.  I like to think that they are the same a lot of times.  But when the differences pop up, and you can be sure that they will, they are obvious.  I should know.  I’ve gotten pretty good at trying to do things both ways depending on which one works best for me at the moment.

A few years back another leader in our church approached me with a concerned look on his face.  He told me that a lady who attended our church semi-regularly was not happy with me.  But she wasn’t keeping her anger to herself.  She was going all over town and telling people that I was the kind of guy that kicked puppy dogs, left the lid off of the toothpaste and talked during movies.

I knew just how to fix this problem.  I’d handle it the baptist way.  That meant that I would do nothing and let her continue telling everyone in town about how much of a rat I am.  While that was happening I would secretly hold on to feelings of resentment towards her.  That should take care of that problem.

I’m sure that baptists don’t have the market cornered on this kind of thing.  Certainly the methodists and non-denominational types do the same thing.  I can tell that just by looking at the churches in my area.

Could it be that some of the churches that aren’t meeting anymore didn’t shut down because they failed to change with the times?  Could it be that problems were allowed to fester until people and pastors just got mad and left?

Or what about the stretches of highway in my county where you can’t drive more than 50 feet without passing another church?  Is Shady Cross Baptist Church and New Shady Cross Baptist Church a result of a move of the Spirit or just a move of angry people?

I was feeling pretty good about taking care of my problem the baptist way.  Until the same guy came up to me again and let me know that the lady was still talking bad about me.  This time it was that I cut in front of old ladies at the Golden Corral, throw dirty diapers in the river and have distant ties to Kim Jong Un.

I knew that the baptist way wouldn’t work.  It wasn’t worth potentially destroying the church that I pastor.  It wasn’t worth hanging on to my own hostility and allowing whatever issues she was dealing with to go unchecked.

I had to do this the Spirit way.

That meant that I had to confront this woman (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 2:11-14).

When I called her she sounded so pleasant.  When I brought up her grievance and asked how things could be made right again, she didn’t sound so pleasant.

I’d like to say that we had our CBS After School Special moment and resolved everything.  That didn’t happen.  I haven’t seen her since that phone call.

But there was something else that didn’t happen either.  And I think that it has a lot to do with our conversation that evening.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.  Ephesians 4:26-27 (ESV)

The devil lost an opportunity.  When I finally moved towards this difficult situation instead of ignoring it, my anger went away.  Anger that could have reared it’s ugly head in other areas of my ministry or even my family life.  Gone.

Most of us don’t like conflict.  We prefer the baptist way.  But if we are a people who are truly living around the cross we will address sin.  We will refuse to give the devil an opportunity.

When people visit the church that I pastor they always say the same things.  First, they want to know if I’m the guy that starred in Braveheart.  Once that gets cleared up they always say how they sense a spirit of unity among our people.

Unity.

It takes a lot of prayer and hard work for a church to be unified.

But it can be quickly lost.

All the devil needs is an opportunity.

Meth-Dealing, Wife-Abusing, Dog-Fighting Theologians

How do you get a guy that sells meth to kids, beats his wife and runs a dog fighting ring to suddenly start talking like a theologian?

Easy.

Just tell him to quit dealing meth to kids, beating his wife and running a dog-fighting ring.

When you do, there’s a very good chance that he will respond with what is perhaps the most popular verse in the entire Bible.

“Hey man, the Bible says judge not lest ye be judged.”

The ye is always thrown in to add some extra authority.

The defensive scheme of our drug-dealing, wife-abusing dog-fighter is clear.

“Since Jesus said something somewhere about not judging, I can do whatever I want and you and your church have to stay out of mine and Jesus’ business.”

But is this really what Jesus was driving at in his Sermon on the Mount?  Was he telling his followers to mind their own business and let their brothers and sisters and neighbors do whatever they want to do?

To answer that question, we should go to the Bible looking for two things.

First, what was the immediate context of Jesus’ command on judging?

Matthew 7:1 does not stand alone.  You may think that it would make an excellent bumper sticker but that was not Jesus’ intention.  Instead, as he neared the end of his Sermon on the Mount, he was addressing the viral hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day.

The Pharisees were known for their very high religious standards and they expected everyone to keep those standards.  Well, everyone but them.  So Jesus goes on to give an analogy of a man with a gigantic piece of lumber in his eye who launches a theological assault on a man who has a piece of dust in his eye.

Jesus is essentially saying, “Don’t confront someone else’s sin without first dealing with your own.  Dealing with your own will give you clearer vision and help you to better serve your brothers and neighbors.”

Church leaders would do themselves, their congregations and their communities a huge favor by putting these words into practice.  How many sermons have been preached on the evils of alcohol by men who can’t manage to drive by a Golden Corral without stopping in for a light snack from the buffet before heading home for dinner?

The second thing that we should look for is other places in the Bible that address this same topic?

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives a very detailed approach to confronting someone who has sinned against you.  It begins with a private confrontation and, if needed, moves on to bringing a few more witnesses with you and even bringing that person before the entire church body.  This is a long, long way from the mind your own business approach that many have adopted.

In Galatians 6:1-2 and James 5:19-20, Christians are commanded to keep a close watch on one another and to rescue those who are wandering from the truth.  This matches perfectly with Jesus’ concluding command to take the log out of your own eye so that you can, “see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

It scares me to think about where I would be if, during different stages of my life, brothers had not had the clear vision to pull me aside and help me with the obstruction in my eye.

Whether you’re a wife-abusing, meth-dealing dog-fighter or just caught up in some sin that is less headline grabbing, you should know that the worst thing that could happen to you is to be left alone in your sin.

Ye need to be judged.