Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I Say, or Should I Go?

 

My family recently left a church that was embracing more and more New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine. However, we have many friends and family still attending. I’ve tried to lovingly point out that the church is teaching false doctrine, but I have been completely shut down. I don’t want to leave my loved ones where they are, but I feel they don’t want to see or hear the truth. They tell me they’ve searched the Scriptures and feel they are right. They also talk a lot about the feelings and experiences they have had and that, in their eyes, proves it’s God moving. My question is, how much should I engage with them? Should I just walk away and pray or keep talking with them about it?

It’s so heart-wrenching to love someone who blindly rejects the truth. We kind of “get it” on a spiritual level when that person is an atheist or just your run of the mill lost person, but if the person is a self-professed Christian – who is supposed to believe, love, and submit to God’s Word – it can seem especially baffling and difficult.

So how do we handle situations like this? Let’s back all the way up to the very foundation of the issue for those who haven’t yet faced this situation.

We have to start by making sure we have the correct understanding of what’s going on here. Every human being, whether he knows it or not, lives in two worlds: the physical world of everyday “real life” (tangible things, people, and decisions we consciously see,) and the spiritual world (where God moves and works and where demons try to thwart Him by stirring up chaos in the world) that we can’t see and that most people aren’t even aware of.

So the first thing we have to recognize in a situation like this, is that this is primarily a spiritual battle, rather than a tangible one. The fact that, in the physical realm, you clearly recognized the false doctrine in this church and acted upon that knowledge by leaving is the fruit of what God did in your heart in the spiritual realm. The things your loved ones have said to you and their decision to stay in an apostate church in the physical realm is the fruit of the fact that they are deceived, hard of heart, and probably unsaved, in the spiritual realm.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
1 Timothy 4:1-2

A spiritual realm problem requires a spiritual realm solution, and only God – not us – can effect true change in the spiritual realm. He must change the hearts of your loved ones. And until or unless He does, you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face and they will continue to dig their heels in.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
John 6:44a
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

So the number one thing you should be doing in this situation is to pray. Ask God to intervene and do the work in their hearts that only He can do. Ask Him to open their eyes. Ask Him to woo them toward studying His Word. Ask Him to save them if they aren’t saved.

And while you’re down there on your knees, pray for yourself and ask God to help you study hard to understand His Word about this situation, and to give you the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent. Because, while God is the One doing the work, He works through His Word, using instruments like you and me to accomplish His work, much like a doctor uses instruments to perform surgery.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7a

Once you’ve asked God to guide you and give you wisdom, believe His Word and trust Him to do so. If you’re with one of these loved ones, and the time seems right to say an appropriate, biblical word, take a second to get your demeanor and tone in order, and then say it.

But, as you’ve said, you’ve already tried to talk biblical sense into your loved ones and they have rejected it. Now what? Should you just walk away and pray, or keep talking with them about it? Yes. There’s actually room for both in situations like this. Let’s take a look at a few biblical passages:

And behold, a man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples…
Matthew 19:16-23a
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
1 Corinthians 7:13-15

What do these passages have in common? They all help us to understand that:

  • not everybody we share the gospel with or impart biblical truth to is going to accept it.
  • we are under no obligation to chase people down or badger and nag them to death with biblical truth once we’ve shared it (and this may even do more harm to our cause than good).
  • it’s OK to share the truth and then back off for a while while, praying fervently, loving well, and setting a godly example.
  • it’s OK to let people to walk away from the truth once you’ve shared it.

It is perfectly OK to say to people who are hostile to the truth, “I love you and I’d like to share more of what the Bible says about this with you. If you’d ever like to talk more about it, just let me know. Now how about a piece of pie?”

And Jesus even goes further than that:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:6

In Jesus’ day, dogs were not the cute little domesticated pooches we smooch on today. They were wild beasts more akin to a pack of coyotes or wolves. Pigs were the epitome of unclean animals and can be pretty violent when provoked. Jesus used these animals’ violence and uncleanness to represent lost people (regardless of whether or not they call themselves Christians) who respond in blasphemy, unbelief, and anger to the Pearl of Great Price. He’s saying that if you know a person has a history of acting this way and is likely to act this way again (e.g. Paul, prior to conversion), or if you’ve laid out biblical truth to someone and she responds with blasphemy, anger, and unbelief (e.g. your loved ones) it’s OK to climb out of the pig pen or the dog pound (or don’t get in there in the first place), take your pearls, and go home. God is demonstrating to you through this person’s behavior that He has not, at this particular time, softened this particular person’s heart to hear and receive what you’re saying. If He does soften that person’s heart in the future (as evidenced by her distinctly undoglike and unpiglike behavior) you can share the truth with her then.

Every person is different. Every situation is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to engage and when to keep silent. And that’s actually a good thing. That keeps us in prayer, completely dependent on the Lord and His Word for guidance.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

2 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Should I Say, or Should I Go?”

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