When The Principle Becomes Personal

By Warren E. Berkley

It becomes necessary, sometimes, to speak out against sin by directly exposing the guilty parties.

When John the Baptist called upon Jews to repent, he said the Pharisees and Sadducees were a “generation of vipers” (Matt. 3:210), and he rebuked Herod for adultery (Mark 6:18). Stephen was another who didn’t keep quiet. He stood before the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, telling them they were stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears (Acts 6:9-7:54). Writing to Timothy, Paul said: “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:20). (See also: Eph. 5:11; Rom. 16:17, 18; Jude 3; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Tim. 1:3.)

As the people of God who are pledged to the service of Christ, we have placed ourselves under obligation to stand up for the great principles of God’s Word. This sometimes requires that we speak out against sin, by directly exposing and identifying the guilty parties.

But sometimes, under the guise of exposing sin and informing people of error or injustice, we expose ourselves as a prejudiced, hypocritical people. We tell ourselves and others – we are simply doing our duty, to expose sin; we are bringing something to light that needs to be known. But really, deep inside, we are just “working somebody over real good” . . . somebody we didn’t like in the first place.

The big give-away is – taking a militant, bold stand against one sinner or false teacher . . . but failing to administer the same treatment to another (whose guilt is identical)! It’s like we use God’s Word to judge folks we don’t like. His Word becomes a weapon we use, to fulfill a carnal purpose (of revenge, spite or hate). As we “discern ‘and “judge” and “contend,” we rr ay be guilty of picking and choosing and singling out certain ones for punishment . . . while others (with identical guilt) get off “scot free.” If you aren’t following my line of thought yet, may I rely on an illustration or two.

In the national press, we have recently been treated to some examples of this. In the political arena, Gary Hart was exposed, crucified and literally driven from the Presidential race, when the press brought to the light of print his week-end “tryst” with a young model. They did that to Gary Hart. But, a few years ago, Ted Kennedy had a week-end with a young lady; yet, he is still “going strong” in national politics. Now the point is certainly not to condone extra-marital romance. And, the point isn’t to suggest that Hart’s conduct should have been covered up. The point is – the press crucifies who the press wants to crucify! They do not apply the same standard to all, across the board. That illustrates the kind of hypocrisy I’m writing against in this article.

Another example. Did you know, a few years ago the president of the National Council of Churches was involved in an adulterous affair. His wife divorced him, he resigned the NCC presidency, and his ordination papers in the Methodist church were revoked. But, the news media, for the most part, didn’t cover the, story. When Jim Bakker’s “tryst” was confessed, it became the “featured story” for several weeks. In such matters, the national press gives us a good example of the inconsistent application of a standard, it is journalistic bias to literally crucify one man who is guilty of some misdeed, while virtually ignoring a peer who is equally guilty.

Let us consider ourselves! Are we anxious to point out the sins of someone we didn’t like anyway, but silent when a favored friend is guilty of the same sin? Are we willing to uphold the principles of God’s Word, but unwilling when the principles become personal? Do we show favoritism, prejudice and inconsistency in the application of God’s standard? If a favored friend or relative is guilty of some transgression, do we hasten to get the proverbial broom, to quickly get the whole mess under the carpet?

Jesus took the sword of truth and dealt with such hypocrisy in Matthew 23. He called them hypocrites, blind guides, sons of hell and whited sepulchers full of hypocrisy and iniquity who wouldn’t escape the judgment of hell. Are we listening?

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 14, pp. 417, 439
July 16, 1987