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Should Paul Have Been Embarrassed?

by Terry W. Benton

Matthew wrote a book that aired the “dirty laundry”, so to speak, of his Jewish nation, just as the earlier prophets had done before, only now it was worse because God’s great “blessing to all nations” was now being rejected as a “troubler” in Israel. Matthew even shows Jesus driving some out of the temple with a whip, and even shows Jesus rebuking them with terms like “hypocrite” and “brood of vipers”. These scenes would make many Christians today feel embarrassed and even raise a level of sympathy for the other side.

Shouldn’t Matthew have been more careful not to air these unpleasant scenes for the whole world to read? No! The Lord is not afraid for the world to see the clash of truth in love with error and hypocrisy, even among “Gods’ people”. The whole Bible is “exhibit A” on this matter.

Some might think that Paul should not have aired the dirty laundry of the brethren at Corinth, calling his words “attacking” the brethren. That is not what it was, but Politically Correct people would frame it as “attacking” them. But, the Holy Spirit was not afraid or embarrassed to state the truth through Paul even if some construed it to be unkind or unloving. The Holy Spirit gave us so many books in which the prophets were chastising the “people of God” who only wanted to hear “smooth things”. God did not concern Himself with whether He was embarrassing overly sensitive ears.

Paul did not try to portray all local churches as sinless or problem-free groups of people, trying to make outsiders think they should join the ranks of Christians because they had mastered a problem-free life, putting forth a façade.

Paul did not mind airing before the world that being a Christian demands loving the Lord and the brethren enough to deal with growing pains, not sweeping them under the rug, and wrestling with issues of conflict between truth and error. It shows that truth is worth standing for and worth contending for even when it rises up among local brethren. Paul was not glad that there was a need to address failings and errors among brethren, but he did not believe that staying quiet about such was better than openly addressing the elephant in the room. Contrarily, he believed that staying quiet would only give strength and courage to error, and it would weaken those who taught the truth.

Thus, we are not to be embarrassed by the tone of Isaiah or Jeremiah or Jesus toward the “people of God”. It was a mark of true love for God and His people (Hebrew 12:6f), the very opposite of how the bleeding-heart-sympathizers viewed it. We are not embarrassed by the real Jesus and His open conflicts with religious people who needed to wake up. The conflicts of the apostles as they confronted error of all kinds was not a thing for which we should be ashamed. It may be that in some cases, that silence is detrimental to the cause of love and truth, and we may need to be embarrassed that we were silent or that we were embarrassed by those who spoke up in defense of the truth of the gospel.

Perhaps on one extreme to the left we have developed an overly sensitive mindset, a mindset that is not able to handle conflict at any level, and would find the documents of the Bible to hold too much embarrassing controversy (See Acts 15). People in this category of thought should then realize that God is often embarrassed by our shallow love and lack of depth, and embarrassed by our lack of love that should lead us to contend earnestly for the faith that saves souls from error. Perhaps all adjustment should not be demanded and expected of those who openly deal with error. There is also a strong need for adjustment to be made among those who don’t. Let us give it some careful thought and seek God’s will in all things.

On the extreme right is an overly critical, fault-finding mindset that looks for a speck in every brother’s eye. This is what Jesus condemns in Matthew 7:1-3. The Bible presents Jesus and the apostles as on neither extreme. There is perfect balance found in the Bible, and that is where we should get our perspectives and principles, being careful to handle aright the word of truth.