May 26, 2017

Shooting the Wounded, or Discharging the Deserters?

By Steve Klein

I’ve heard the following quote, or similar words, several times in recent years — “The church of Christ is the only army I know of that shoots its wounded.” Such a statement is neither accurate nor helpful. It attempts to lay guilt at the feet of the church which should be born by sinners who have deserted the church and left the Lord’s way.

Literally speaking, no church could shoot its own members without the event being thoroughly reported by the news media and soundly condemned by the public (remember Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple?). But the quote surely is not meant to be taken literally. Rather, it means to imply that the church is guilty of actively seeking to do spiritual harm to those whose souls have already been damaged by the working of Satan. This is nonsense. What church is going to purposely pursue a course which destroys the souls of those who have fought courageously (and would be willing to fight again) in the battle against Satan? The worst any church should be charged with is botching a surgery intended to heal the wounded.

While the Bible teaches that those who are overtaken in sin should be “restored in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1), the reality is that there are those who do not respond either to gentle encouragement or fervent pleas. When, despite efforts to exhort, reprove, and correct, an individual continues in sin, the church must withdraw from that individual. 1 Corinthians 5:13 plainly charges the church to “put away from yourselves the evil person.” And in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, the inspired apostle Paul wrote, “We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” He is not a wounded soldier; he is a deserter. He is “walking disorderly” — out of step with the rest of the troops — and needs to be dishonorably discharged in the hope that such severe action will motivate him to “turn himself in” and take his place in the ranks once again.

Prologue

C.R. Scroggins and Keith W. Shack- leford

In the fall of 1997, Lauri Ritchie, then a junior in high school as well as a member of the Mt. View church of Christ in Foster, Oklahoma had arranged a Bible study with some of her classmates during the lunch period. Just prior to the first study Lauri had gone to the local grocery store where she would buy her lunch and read her Bible. While reading her Bible, Jimmy Short (an employee at the time), asked Lauri what she was studying. This encounter led to future studies with Jimmy and others. However, it was during the very first Bible study with him that the subject of a debate arose. Jimmy said he knew Hoyt Chastain, a Missionary Baptist preacher and debater who would be interested in debating. Lauri knew David D. Bonner, a gospel preacher who also would be interested in a debate. This set the course for the two debates that were held in Pernell, Oklahoma in June of 1998 and in Lufkin, Texas in October 1998. Hoyt Chastain offered the fol- lowing propositions to be affirmed by each disputant: “Resolved that the church of which I am a member is Scriptural in origin, name, doctrine and practice.”

In the December 3rd issue, brother Jesse G. Jenkins’ review of these debates. In the article that follows, appears an article from Jimmy Short who was converted from listening to the debate in Pernell, Oklahoma.

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