On Handling Men and Their Error

By Larry Ray Hafley

It is thought by some that if one presents a predicament to an opponent of the gospel that is embarrassing or humiliating or offensive that he does not proceed in a proper spirit. Is this true? Is it impossible to put false teachers and their doctrines in a bad light without also casting a negative reflection on the truth? Some so think, but it is not true, and anyone who believes it to be demeaning or undignified to put errorists and error in a shameful position does not do much toward honoring Christ. Jesus regularly and frequently crucified the Pharisees and their leaven and put it to an open, public shame, and who would charge the Lord with stepping below the level of dignified dialogue?

The Lord took advantage of situations that allowed him to put down human hypocrisy and traditions. He healed on the Sabbath, but before doing so he challenged those who dared to question the propriety and lawfulness of it (Mt. 12:10-13). This no doubt cut them to the quick.

The greatest controversialist who ever lived was Jesus. His words were honed in truth. Antagonists were rebuffed and rebuked with such incisive, pervading skill that they felt offended and were squelched in painful silence. See Matthew chapters 12, 15, 21-23. If some of the darlings of the day had been present when the Lord withered his objectors with arguments of multi-horned dilemma or berated them with questions revealing their rather unglamorous condition, they would have blushed in that sweet spirit of pompous piety and wagged their heads saying, “There must be a better way to do it.”

Well, if there is a better way, the Lord did not know it, and the apostles did not practice it. At least Paul’s contention kept him in jail or fleeing for his life. Usually the ones close on his heels were “the devout and honorable women and chief men of the city” who raised persecution and expelled him out of their coasts (Acts 13:50). Note that the “dignified” ones opposed the apostles then, and their descendants, however inadvertently, do so now.

March 29, 1973