The Mailbag: Your Article Was Unloving!

This article crosses a line…it’s bashing…mean-hearted…We shouldn’t be looking to twist a knife or bask in “I warned you” glory…so settled in our sense of rightness that we can’t grieve for those who are struggling.

…reading that [we should pray for Beth Moore’s salvation] after all the condescension comes off as more of a southern “bless her heart”.

…this article comes across as sanctimonious with zero grace. It complete [sic] discounts the power of God to transform the most wayward heart….ostracizing and belittling those leaders who fall…I felt a lot of smugness in the article…lack of grace and love…[coming] from a place of superiority…[being] gleeful when sin comes to light…take on the role of judge and executioner…

Michelle: So it’s OK for you to bash me, but it’s not OK for me to “bash” Beth?

I’m not bashing you.

Whenever I post an article about Beth Moore or another false teacher, I invariably get comments like this on social media, the gist of which is that I’m being unloving for saying that she is a false teacher, for rebuking her sin, for recommending that Christian women not receive teaching from her, for my “tone” of using stark language, and so on. (I always find it ironic that the commenter is usually bashing me even as she’s accusing me of “bashing” the false teacher.)

Such was the case last Friday when I posted my article Bye-Bye Beth: What Beth Moore’s Split with the SBC Means. I’ve posted excerpts above from several comments about the article made by one woman – not to single her out, but because her accusations and phraseology typify so well the pushback I often receive from those of the “You’re being unloving” persuasion. There were a few other women who responded in the same vein on the same Facebook post(s), so this lady – who, I must say, was much more polite and articulate in expressing her thoughts than most usually are – was not alone in her viewpoint.

I have not excerpted this lady’s comments in order to take them out of context or misrepresent her, but because her comments were far too many and too lengthy to post in full. Assuming they have not been deleted, If you would like to read her comments (and those of the other dissenting women) in full to make sure I’m presenting an accurate picture of the thrust of their sentiments, I would encourage you to do so here, here, and here. (Please do not address these women any further. They have spoken their minds in full, and they have been addressed sufficiently. There is no need to pile on.)

So to those who would accuse me of being unloving or hateful, who shame me that “Jesus would never talk to people that way,” who think my wording is too harsh, unkind, not gentle enough, etc., here’s my answer…

Whose definition of “loving” are we using here?

You’re defining “love” as my saying something in a way that you’re comfortable with and doesn’t offend your sensibilities.

That’s not how the Bible defines it. And that’s why Jesus was able to speak to the Pharisees…

…woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces…you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides!…You blind fools!…You blind men!…full of greed and self-indulgence…you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness…you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?..on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

Matthew 23

…and God was able to speak about His idolatrous people…

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

Ezekiel 23:17-21

…so much more harshly and starkly than I’ve spoken about Beth in this article, and yet He is still the perfect embodiment of love, and the perfect example of love to us.

Using your definition of love, if you’re going to be fair and consistent, if you accuse me of speaking in an unloving way in this article, you have to accuse God of speaking in an unloving way in Ezekiel 23 and Jesus of speaking in an unloving way in Matthew 23.

But the Bible defines love like this:

God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:8b-11

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself. Love isn’t someone making you feel good about yourself or the world or your circumstances. Love isn’t being outwardly “nice”: always being the epitome of sweetness, never confronting anyone, affirming everything, never hurting anyone’s feelings, never saying or doing anything that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself.

While the world looks at a person’s outward, observable behavior and pronounces her loving or unloving depending on how pleasing that behavior is to others, God looks at a person’s heart and pronounces her loving or unloving to the extent that her motives match His.

…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b

God defines love as cooperating with Him in rescuing the perishing, building up the church, and showcasing His glory. Sometimes that’s going to look like binding up the brokenhearted or healing the untouchable leper, and sometimes that’s going to look clearing the temple or calling false teachers a brood of vipers. While the world would call the former “loving” and the latter “hateful” based on what those behaviors look like, God calls both loving if they spring from a heart motivated to rescue, redeem, restore, and reconcile.

So, when you say I’m being “unloving” to use stringent language about false teachers (like God, Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles did), and I say you’re wrong, it’s because we’re using two different definitions of love. You’re using a worldly definition of love based on how pleasing my outward behavior was. I’m using God’s definition of love that’s based on the motivation of my heart. You cannot tell me I’m not demonstrating biblical love in a situation like this because you don’t know the motivation of my heart. I do. The article in question (like so many others about which I’m accused of being unloving) was motivated by love – God’s definition of love – for

  • Beth – that God would graciously remove the scales from her eyes and save her
  • Beth’s fans – that God would open their eyes to deception they’re believing and lead them to repentance and sound doctrine
  • Discerning Christians – that they might be encouraged not to let their guard down but to keep contending for the faith once for all delivered to saints
  • The church – that it would cleanse out the leaven of false teaching so that Christ might present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
  • and the Southern Baptist Convention – that it might forsake the idols of money, power, and celebrity, and return to its first love, Christ.

But it was also motivated by another component of love which the worldly definition of love, being worldly, is completely oblivious to. You see, the world’s definition of love only concerns itself with the “horizontal” love between one human being and another. But God’s definition of love finds its origin in Himself. He is the foundation and the culmination of love. He is both the starting gun and the finish line in the race of love. Where there is no vertical love of God, there is no horizontal love between people. There may be friendship, attraction, affection, attachment, and emotion, but there is no true love.

And so any biblical – rather than worldly – definition of love must start and finish with love for God. Only a heart that loves Him because He first loved me can extend that same redemptive, restorative love to others.

And though I have never, and will never, this side of Glory, love Him as completely and perfectly as I should – as I want to – those articles that offend your sensibilities, that you feel justified in berating me about because they don’t meet your standards, those articles are rooted in and motivated by love for the Christ whom I serve. I would not continue to do what I do and take the abuse I take for it if I did not love Him.

I’ve heard this whole “tone police” perspective a million times. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve considered it. I’ve weighed the motivations of my heart. And in cases in which I know before the Lord that my motives have truly been unloving, I’ve repented. But the astronomically overwhelming majority of accusations I receive are not from people concerned with the biblical definition of love, but from people using a worldly definition of love whose personal sensibilities have been offended. People who wish to correct me from the authority and standard of their feelings, not from the authority and standard of God’s Word.

And as I’ve prayed, and studied, and weighed, and considered all of these things, the conclusion the Lord has graciously led me to is that there’s no way I will ever please every single one of the thousands of people who hear me. Just like Jesus’ words didn’t please all the people who heard Him, or John the Baptist’s words, or Peter’s, or Paul’s, or Noah’s, or Ezekiel’s, or Jeremiah’s, or… (you know, I’m starting to think I’m in good company!)

So rather than trying to please man, I’m going to strive to please God. If my conscience is clear before Him, that’s all that matters.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Additional Resource:

Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone

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.


The Mailbag: Potpourri (Todd Friel on Rick Warren, Enneagram, Should I stay or should I go?…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

Do you have any thoughts on Todd Friel’s latest comment that Rick Warren is not a heretic?

Yes, I’m a faithful listener of Wretched Radio, and I did hear that episode. (You can listen to the specific remarks this reader is referencing here starting around the 5:25 mark.)

I’d like to start by saying that I don’t speak for Todd, so if this is of great concern to you, I would recommend contacting Todd directly and getting a “straight from the horse’s mouth” response from him.

The following is what I understood Todd’s remarks to mean:

I believe Todd was using a more classical theological definition of heresy used by many pastors and theologians (and which I agree with), which a lot of people are unaware of these days because the term “heresy” is tossed about so haphazardly (I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it myself). In this definition, real heresy is narrowly focused. It has only to do with the basic doctrines of salvation. In other words, the things you have to believe to be a Christian, and the things you can’t believe to be a Christian.

For example, T.D. Jakes is a heretic for two reasons: a) he is a modalist, a classic heresy which denies the biblical nature of the Trinity, and b) he preaches Word of Faith heresy – “another gospel” as described in Galatians 1:6-9.

Rick Warren, on the other hand, is someone I would categorize as a “false teacher” (again, I cannot speak for Todd, so I don’t know if he would use that label, but I think he would agree with the remainder of this paragraph). He says and does a lot of unbiblical things which he needs to stop and repent of, and nobody should be following him, but he does not preach or claim to believe anything (to my knowledge anyway) that goes against the basic doctrines of salvation. If you sat him down and talked to him, he would affirm the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, that Christ is the only way of salvation, etc.

I think the confusion is that the classical definition of heresy differentiates between true heretics and false teachers, but many Christians don’t seem to understand that because the terms “heretic” and “false teacher” are often used interchangeably. This is a definitional thing. Todd is not saying Rick Warren is a doctrinally sound pastor you should be following. He’s made that abundantly clear on a number of occasions.

My friend Samuel had a great question on Twitter recently:

This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 1:13

It’s a great passage with a lot to consider. My thoughts:

1. Look at the rest of 13: “that they may be sound in the faith”. That’s the goal of the sharp rebuke- to bring them out of false doctrine and restore them to sound doctrine. That goal is what should inform the “sharpness” of the rebuke as well as the tone.

2. I think the “sharpness” has more to do with the urgency and immovability of the content of the message you’re conveying, and gentleness, kindness, etc., have more to do with the way (tone) in which you convey it.

3. Notice the word “For” at the beginning of v. 10. It draws our attention back to v. 5-9, the qualifications for elders. In other words, “Elders need to have these qualities (5-9) because of the need to silence and sharply rebuke these false teachers (10-16).” Verses 7-8 call for an elder not to be “arrogant…quick-tempered…violent…but…self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Those qualities should govern how an elder gives a sharp rebuke.

4. I totally agree [I think someone else in the Twitter discussion mentioned this] that we should follow Christ’s example in Matthew 23, but we need to keep in mind that a culturally appropriate sharp rebuke in the first century Middle East might not be exactly the same as a culturally appropriate sharp rebuke in 21st century America. We convey the same message, but in a different way.

What is an Enneagram? A church in my area is offering a Bible study on it. Is it biblical?

The Enneagram is basically a tool that purports to help you discover which of nine fundamental personality types you are in order to maximize your strengths and grow in areas in which you are weak.

Is it biblical? There are a lot of different opinions and information out there, so it depends on who you ask. Some would say it’s merely a tool that helps identify less Christlike areas of your personality so you can be aware of, and strive to be more obedient in, those areas of weakness. Others grab on to the Enneagram and dive headfirst into the New Age mysticism that seems to be lurking in all its nooks and crannies.

I would just ask – have you ever read a passage of Scripture that says we need to analyze our personalities – using any tool, for any reason? No, you haven’t. And that’s the main reason I would say you don’t need the Enneagram or any other personality evaluation tool. Just like Christians for the past 2000 years haven’t needed them.

God gives us everything we need for life and godliness in the Bible. Do you tend to be too much of a people pleaser? That’s called fear of man. It’s in the Bible. Too harsh with others? You’re being unkind. It’s in the Bible. Struggle with anxiety? You’re not trusting God. It’s in the Bible.

A lot of people don’t want to hear this again and again because it’s not shiny and new, popular and fun like the Enneagram, personality tests, or internet quizzes (plus it takes longer and involves hard, spiritual work), but we don’t need to be looking for the latest evangelical fad to microwave us into spiritual maturity. We need the slow, deep, plodding work of studying our Bibles, sitting under good preaching and teaching at church, being discipled by older, wiser brothers and sisters in Christ, praying for wisdom, and repenting of sin.

If I were considering using the Enneagram, here’s what I would ask myself:

Why would I rather use the Enneagram – which isn’t mentioned or suggested anywhere in Scripture and has some sketchy spiritual elements to it – than use the methods (prayer, Bible study, discipleship, etc.) I know God has prescribed in Scripture?

For more information on the Enneagram here are some good resources:

Enneagram at Berean Research

Christian Answers for the New Age (Marcia posts great information on her Facebook page. You may have to scroll a bit or ask her to find the specific topic you’re looking for. Here’s something on the Enneagram I happened to find near the top of her feed today.)

Girl What’s Your Number? The Enneagram Episode at Sheologians

The New Age & Quack Spirituality Origins of the Enneagram with Marcia Montenegro and Steve Kozar

Can you recommend a good resource on _____ [a very specific relationship issue]?

There are a lot of wonderful books and other materials out there that can help us deal with certain relational issues, and when I’m aware of those resources I try to recommend them if I think they would help. I am all for reading and learning from helpful, doctrinally sound materials.

But the more specific and interpersonal the issue is, the less helpful resources are, because those resources are general by nature and can’t address every conceivable scenario, including yours. Sometimes you don’t need to read a book, you need to have a conversation with the other person(s) involved in the issue.

For example, if Sally is constantly gossiping about you to other people at church, you don’t need to read a book on gossip or relationships between church members. You need to go to Sally and ask why she’s saying these things. You might need to set the record straight about your behavior that she’s gossiping about. You might have received a false report that she’s gossiping about you. You might need to rebuke her and proceed to the next step of church discipline. But you won’t know any of those things unless you sit down and talk to her. And you’re not going to find those answers in a book.

In other situations, getting the wise counsel of a godly older sister in your church, or setting up an appointment with your pastor for counseling can be much more helpful than simply reading a book. These people know you and care about you. They’re available to help you and answer your questions. They can walk through the changing ups and downs of the situation with you over time. You can’t get all of that from a book.

Materials and resources are great and can be very helpful, but not in every situation.

I still meet with my ladies Bible study group, but they continue to choose very questionable material. Teachers that you have warned against as false and I agree with you. I have voiced my concerns to them over and over and at this point I am just starting to sound like a broken record. My question is, do I still participate and try my level best to help them discern or do I just leave the group?

In my article The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine? I addressed the question, “Should I attend a study using a false teacher’s materials in order to correct false doctrine, or should I decline to attend the study due to the unbiblical materials they’re using?”

Either option can be perfectly biblical depending on the situation and the people involved. This reader chose to go the former route, which brings up an additional question: If I join this group and they continue to teach false doctrine via materials by false teachers despite my correction, how long do I hang in there and continue to correct?

Since every situation is different, I can’t give a hard and fast answer to that. I would reiterate the counsel I gave in the previous article about praying for wisdom and discussing it with your husband and your pastor. If, in these discussions, you and your husband decide that, in addition to the women’s group, there are sufficient biblical reasons to look for another church, you may want to hang in there until you move to a new church.

If you decide to leave the group, another natural time to make the break would be when they finish the book they’re currently using and before they begin a new book.

If the question is less, “When should I leave?” and more, “Is it biblical to leave the group when it’s obvious they aren’t going to listen to biblical rebuke and sound doctrine?” the answer is yes, and practically the whole Bible is precedent for this.

Think back over the Scriptures. What is the Bible’s general posture and response to people – particularly God’s people – who have been repeatedly warned about their sin or presented with biblical truth, and choose to continue in that sin or ignore that truth (as this group seems to be acting toward the reader)?

Think about God’s repeated warnings to Old Testament Israel about their sins of idolatry and syncretism (which are basically what importing false doctrine into a church is). Even God didn’t hang in there continuing to warn them forever. What was His eventual response to them? He used pagan nations to conquer them and send them into exile.

Passages like these also help us see the New Testament’s take on moving on when sound doctrine is rejected:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Titus 3:10-11 (For more on false doctrine as “division”, see Romans 16:17-18, Jude 18-19.)

And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.
Mark 6:11 (see verses 7-13 for context)

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

Do you have scriptural grounds to leave if a group rejects biblical correction of their false doctrine? Yes. When should you leave? You’ll have to ask God to give you the wisdom to decide.

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.

Bible, Church, Sin

Matthew Henry on Leviticus 19:17


Do you use commentaries as you study the Bible? My favorite commentaries are Matthew Henry’s “Commentary on the Whole Bible.” (It’s pretty cheap on Kindle {get the unabridged version!} and absolutely free on

I’m studying the book of Leviticus right now, and, this morning, Leviticus 19:17 was one of the verses on deck. I really liked Matthew Henry’s teaching on it, so I thought I’d share it with you. Since 17 century British English can be a little cumbersome in the 21st century, I’ve written a brief synopsis below each of his points. My words are in purple.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” Leviticus 19:17

VII. We are commanded to rebuke our neighbour in love (Lev. 19:17): Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour. 1. Rather rebuke him than hate him for an injury done to thyself. If we apprehend that our neighbour has any way wronged us, we must not conceive a secret grudge against him, and estrange ourselves from him, speaking to him neither bad nor MatthewHenrygood, as the manner of some is, who have the art of concealing their displeasure till they have an opportunity of a full revenge (2 Sam. 13:22); but we must rather give vent to our resentments with the meekness of wisdom, endeavour to convince our brother of the injury, reason the case fairly with him, and so put an end to the disgust conceived: this is the rule our Saviour gives in this case, Luke 17:3.

Synopsis: If somebody sins against you, don’t hold a grudge or seek revenge. Go to him in love, talk it out, and forgive him.

2. Therefore rebuke him for his sin against God, because thou lovest him; endeavour to bring him to repentance, that his sin may be pardoned, and he may turn from it, and it may not be suffered to lie upon him. Note, Friendly reproof is a duty we owe to one another, and we ought both to give it and take it in love. Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindnessPs. 141:5. Faithful and useful are those wounds of a friendProv. 27:5, 6. It is here strictly commanded, “Thou shalt in any wise do it, and not omit it under any pretence.” Consider, (1.) The guilt we incur by not reproving: it is construed here into a hating of our brother. We are ready to argue thus, “Such a one is a friend I love, therefore I will not make him uneasy by telling him of his faults;” but we should rather say, “therefore I will do him the kindness to tell him of them.” Love covers sin from others, but not from the sinner himself. (2.) The mischief we do by not reproving: we suffer sin upon him. Must we help the ass of an enemy that has fallen under his burden, and shall we not help the soul of a friend? Exod. 23:5. And by suffering sin upon him we are in danger of bearing sin for him, as the margin reads it. If we reprove not the unfruitful works of darkness, we have fellowship with them, and become accessories ex post facto—after the factEph. 5:11. It is thy brother, thy neighbour, that is concerned; and he was a Cain that said, Am I my brother’s keeper?

Synopsis: It is our biblical duty to call brothers and sisters in sin to repentance because we love them. We should both give and take correction in love. If we fail to correct our brothers and sisters, we are actually hating them instead of loving them. If we do not correct them, we are accessories to their sin.