Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones (1899-1981), minister of Westminster Chapel in London for over twenty-five years, once wrote:
“Holiness and love must go together . . . To be holy does not just mean the mere avoidance of certain things, or even not thinking certain things; it means the ultimate attitude of the heart of man toward that holy, loving God , and secondly, our attitude towards our fellow men and women."
Recently I came across a Southern Baptist author who helped me work through some of my puzzlement over the tone and spirit of a few Southern Baptists in the blog world. Charles Knowles, Ph.D. is a Southern Baptist deacon from Missouri, and a retired science professor from the University of Missouri. He is the author of several scientific publications and one theological book. In his theological work, entitled "Let Her Be", Charles cautions that in some Southern Baptist circles,
“The Lordship of Jesus (is) treacherously truncated, and the biblical command to believers to walk in love is given short shrift.”
Dr. Charles Knowles points out that there is always the possiblity for problems in interpersonal relationships among Southern Baptists simply because of our diversity. However, he argues that there is . . .
“An enormous difference between a lifestyle in which mean-spirited interpersonal interactions are frequent, intentional, and believed to be right and a lifestyle in which they are infrequent, unintentional, and believed to be wrong.”
How can any Southern Baptist justify a persistent mean-spiritedness toward other Southern Baptists with whom they disagree? Charles Knowles suggests that there is a separation of personal holiness and the command to walk in love in interpersonal relationships in the minds of some. In other words, a flawed theology leads some Southern Baptists to believe that one can be holy yet not be loving toward those brothers who disagree doctrinally. Dr. Knowles explains it this way:
“One zealous expression of this flawed theology in Southern Baptist life is the proclivity of some individuals to fight believers whose convictions even appear to differ from theirs. Using vituperative language, attempts are made to assassinate the character of those whom they cannot control. Professing to be the paragon of right belief and the guardian of biblical authority while behaving toward others in ways that lack the validating quality of love raises the question of whether one has yet to come under the influence of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The wrong practice signifies a defect in one’s belief system. Claiming to think rightly about God and thinking rightly about God are not the same; in contrast to the former, the latter is characterized by right practice. Is it ‘Christian’ to profess to believe like Paul, the apostle, and to behave like Saul, the militant religious extremist?
Charles Kimball, in his book “When Religion Becomes Evil” writes:
“Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion (doctrine), when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed.”
My prayer is that all of us who blog will remember our higher calling is to love one another. Let’s disagree, but let’s do it with respect. Let’s point out the perceived weaknesses in the theology of others, but let’s not denigrate the character, intelligence or abilities of our brothers and sisters who disagree. In other words, let’s believe like Paul and refuse to behave like Saul.
In His Grace,