In the sphere of National politics it seems to be an essential of the
cut and thrust of parliamentary life to present the party’s position as a judgment of perfection and then to proceed to denigrate the opposition in language both extreme and intemperate. There is no middle road suggested, no willingness to moderate the unbalanced exaggerations on either side lest the party faithful should suspect their leaders of wicked compromise or lack of muscle. Such spokesmen appear to believe the old adage found in the margin of me poor preacher’s sermon notes, ‘Argument weak, shout loud’. Maybe they even dare to hope that such biased and extreme statements will serve to convert the waverers and confirm supporters. The situation is even worse when either the honesty or the common decency of the opposition is questioned.
This approach may now be commonly accepted in politics,
commerce, or advertising but it is a shameful thing if it invades the area of Christian discussion and debate.
It has been wisely said that, ‘Right, too rigid, hardens into wrong’, and the disciples had to be solemnly rebuked by their Master when they suggested calling fire down from heaven upon a
samaritan village which refused to receive Him. They evidently felt they had at least two important reasons for suggesting such a thing. ‘firstly they had the Biblical precedent of Elijah and then they were moved by their genuine devotion to their Lord, but He ‘turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’
Often, sadly, genuine Christian believers have failed to learn this great lesson that there is a sensitive balance between extremes on so many debatable points of Christian doctrine and practice. Attacked by real heretics and subtle heresies the true Church must ever seek to stand firm against all such destructive attacks on its essential foundations, but within its own borders it must not behave like a pack of wild dogs, ‘But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another’ (Gal. 5.15), said the man who was willing to be ‘made all things to all men, that I might by all
means save some’ (1 Cor. 9.22).
This sensitive balance is often lost under the pressure of those who genuinely fear compromise, but who then tend always to think that every religious issue is to be seen according to their limited understanding and in terms only of black (i.e. those who disagree with me) and white (i.e. those on my side). Once this sensitive balance is lost a whole train of sad consequences follow and many arguments are produced to defend the extreme position which has
been so strongly adopted. The fear of loss of face still sadly and sinfully affects even those who would want to be seen as the truly humble followers of a meek and lowly Jesus, and there seems to be a strange unwillingness humbly to admit our limited understanding or the possibility of mistake.
Followers of the Saviour are commanded to Â‘have love one to anotherÂ’ and to be endeavouring Â‘to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peaceÂ’. To fly to church censures against those who disagree on secondary issues is the end of all possibility of peace in the family of God. Again it has been said that, Â‘Strict justice steels itself into excessive severity; and the man is lost in the judgmentÂ’. It would be well for all of ChristÂ’s disciples to be appalled by the wicked spirit of Diotrophes, in 3 John, of whom John said, Â‘I wrote unto the church: but Diotrophes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us notÂ’, and to seek much more the spirit of Gaius and Demetrius so Â‘that we might be fellow helpers to the truthÂ’.