Thank you for your kind remarks. Be assured that I shall prayerfully consider your admonition and criticism. I need conscientious godly reproof. Your letter helps me to reflect and causes me to pray for wisdom and judgment in “handling aright the word of truth.” Truly, “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov. 15:1), “and the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all men” (2 Tim. 2:24).
What follows below is not an attempt to justify myself or to “prove” that your letter is off target. Rather, I believe you have raised some issues that need to be addressed. Numerous sound, sober, solid citizens in the kingdom feel as you do. Therefore, I urge you to hear me patiently and thoughtfully that we may be of the same mind and may “with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:16).
First, you underestimate yourself. You state that as “a woman” you “do not presume to teach (me) how to teach.” Your attitude is admirable, and I appreciate the “meek and quiet spirit” which prompted your words, but do not hesitate to instruct me or anyone else. Aquila and Priscilla took mighty, eloquent Apollos and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 16:24-26). Many good and wise men have been led to ruin because they did not have (or else did not heed) the sweet counsel of a godly friend. “The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” (Prov. 16:21). “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness” (Psa. 141:5). “He that hateth reproof is brutish” (Prov. 12:1). “He that hateth reproof shall die” (Prov. 15:10). “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul” (Prov. 15:32).
Second, my “tongue in cheek” sarcasm in the Paher exchange was an attempt, in part, to humorously defuse his stinging words. Brother Paher made, as a review of his letters will show clearly, many fairly uncomplimentary remarks. Rather than respond in the same manner, I chose (whether wisely or not) to show that fellows who go around preaching “peace and love” and condemning “bullyism” are not immune to using harsh, censorious cutting language. Did you also write to brother Paher and object to his “derogatory and debasing remarks”? Did you reprimand him for his “ridicule” and “personal remarks”? Was that person who is “very strong and well indoctrinated in the Bible” also “disgusted” with brother Paher’s insults and charges? I am not asking for an answer, but some of us who have to endure the taunts and accusations of others are a little weary of being criticized for our efforts while “derogatory and debasing remarks” against us are either excused, ignored or both.
Third, if you cannot recommend GOT because of its “personal exchanges,” how do you handle the biting satire and scathing sarcasm of the Bible itself? “Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Man. 23:24). “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers” (Man 23:33). Are “very strong” brethren “disgusted” with Paul’s “personal remarks” against Elymas, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness” (Acts 13:10)? Demas, Diotrephes, Hymanaeus, PhIletus and Alexander are all cited and indicted for their evil deeds and doctrines in stem, strong terms (1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:10,16; 3 Jn. 9,10). Paul referred to some men as mutilators and “dogs” (Phil. 3:2). He wished they were “cut off” and used a play on words regarding the cutting of circumcision (Gal. 5:12). Surely, one who is well indoctrinated In the Bible will recognize these blunt, personal references. Will he be “disgusted” with them? No, of course not; so why should he be offended by similar situations today?
In 1 Kings 18:27, Elijah sarcastically chided and “mocked” the prophets of Baal. Are heathens and idolaters today to be spared thee derisive remarks? Hear and feel the lash of Paul’s words in Titus 1:10-13. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and decolvers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for fifthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” This magazine has never featured stronger words than those. Further, Paul said, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Tit. 2:15).
Any rascal could use the above passages to justify his malicious meanness. The Lord will judge, but Jesus Himself used words that offended, shamed and filled His enemies with “madness” (Lk. 6:11, 11:45, 13:17). What do those “young in the faith” think of Jesus when they we such reactions to the Lord?
Fourth, and finally, I received three long distance phone calls from Texas, Kentucky and Ohio and six letters from Texas, Kentucky Wisconsin and Arizona commending the material in the Paher review. Counting noses does not approve me, but brethren who are as equally concerned for truth and righteousness as you are deemed the efforts profitable and helpful.
Obviously, you agree with what I and others teach, but you disagree with the way we do it. Here is part of the solution. You and others who feel as you do should submit articles which deal with these and other sensitive and controversial subjects. Since what we say needs to be said, why not deal with these vital matters the way they need to be dealt with? The pages of GOT are open to all who can find a better way to speak the truth. If we say the right things in the wrong way, then you and others should say the same things in the right way. We do not insist that our way is the only way. We only insist that what we say must be said; therefore, you say it in a way that will not be offensive or disgusting or harmful to those young in the faith, and we will print it. But say it! If we are not saying it right, then you say it right! If you can reprove and rebuke sharply without causing disgust, perhaps we can learn to emulate and imitate your manners. Let me, though, issue two words of caution: (1) Do not become more mannerly than the Lord and the apostles, and (2) remember the sage advice of the late and lamented Luther Blackmon, “There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, but no matter how you do it, the old cat ain’t gonna like it.”
Again, thanks for writing. I shall treasure your words in my heart and seek to be a better Christian because of them. I trust that you, too, will weigh what I have said on the scales of God’s word. May the Lord bless you in every pure endeavor for truth.
Larry Ray Hafley
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, pp. 115-116
February 21, 1985