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Why don’t they say anything?

question

It never fails. Every time a scandal or controversy hits—whether legitimate or manufactured—someone inevitably asks why this or that situationally recognizable[1. I’m going to use this phrase until Felicia Day tells me not to anymore.] Christian pastor, author, speaker or blogger doesn’t say anything.

We’ve come to expect this, to some degree. We act as though we need to have the voices we respect (or the ones we like to criticize) speak up. To condemn sinful behavior as sinful. To give a voice to victims, or to rebuke sheep-beating shepherds and keyboard warriors who have an unhealthy craving for controversy (1 Timothy 6:4). I get this temptation, I really do. And there’s a degree to which I don’t think it’s entirely wrong.

But I’m also uncertain we need to do it all that often. Why? Because of Titus 3:10-11.

“Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning, knowing that such a person is perverted and sins, being self-condemned,” Paul wrote. It’s so straightforward, I suspect we don’t need to turn to a commentary to find a clue to its meaning, or dig into the Greek to investigate what we are to do with this passage. Nevertheless, it’s wise to remind ourselves of what’s at the heart of what Paul wrote:

A divisive person should be warned about their behavior. It doesn’t matter if it’s a well-known person who thinks they’re a big deal and thus free to do whatever they please to build their brand, a member of your small group who loves to stir the pot and spread gossip, or a watchblogger trying to make a name for themselves with slander—these people must be warned about what they’re doing for they are in sin. (Shocking, I know.)

In most cases, it may surprise you to know, this has happened already. Multiple times, in fact. Sometimes it’s by those who are in direct relationship with the offenders, and thus handled privately. Other times, it’s the victims who are issuing the warning publicly. Rarely, though, is a divisive person left to run rampant, only to be confronted by a stranger. This doesn’t guarantee they’ll listen to the warning (for divisive people rarely do this), but make no mistake: a warning has almost certainly been issued.

If divisive people persist in being divisive, we are to have nothing to do with them. That means, quite simply, we don’t need to build a ministry around why this or that person is wrong all the time forever and ever. And probably smells, too. No, Paul says once they have been warned once, and then twice, have nothing more to do with them. They are self-condemned if they will not heed the warnings of people who are concerned about what they’re doing—and they’re souls. In fact, one can infer that, in the same way that we are to treat those who persist in other forms of unrepentant sin as unbelievers, we would be wise to do the same with those who persist in divisive behavior.

What does “rejecting” look like? In the local church context, there’s an aspect of church discipline involved here. Such a person is not welcome to participate in the regular life of the church. They are like those in Corinth of whom Paul called us to hand over to Satan, in the hopes that they might repent.

When it comes the ye olde Interwebs, things get a bit more interesting. After all, there isn’t a clear accountability structure that exists for bloggers and social media personalities (beyond personal relationships, and the pastoral relationships at their local churches). Even so, here are two things we can do:

  1. If the offense of the divisive person warrants, we can publicly disassociate from them. Sometimes, this is necessary, though I doubt most of us would ever feel the need to do this. It can be a powerful way to say, “What this person is doing is wrong, and I cannot be a part of it.” I did this one time, asking forgiveness for failing to be appropriately discerning of a celebrity pastor when there were warning signs that not all was right in the land.
  2. Unfollow their social media accounts. Stop following them on Twitter. Unlike their Facebook page. Make sure you’re not on a mailing list. Block them if you have to. Don’t read blog articles devoted to those people. Do whatever you have to do to avoid the temptation to find out what’s going on with that person so long as there continues to be no evidence of repentance.

The more attention we pay, the more it encourages these people to persist in their sin. If we love them and want the best for them, we can’t give them that which they want most.

What else can we do? There are two things I’d suggest:

First, we can set our minds on what is praiseworthy. Although we should not be Pollyannaish, we need not dwell only on the dark deeds of those who claim the name of Christ, lest we become like them. Instead, we can rejoice in what is good and excellent. We can fill our hearts and minds with that which gives wisdom and life.

Second, we can pray. We should always be praying for divisive people, in the same way I hope we would pray for a wayward church member. We should desire they turn away from their unhealthy cravings, that they would pursue what is right and good and true. And who knows? Perhaps God will grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25). And wouldn’t that be something?

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