The Dark Side of the Soul: Who Let the Dogs Out?
More than twenty-five years ago, I titled my book on Church History, The Most Glorious Institution. This title reflected my desire to say that I believe the Church of Jesus Christ is the object of His eternal love, and is destined for glory throughout eternity.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2).
With that being noted, I am under no illusion about the dark side of individuals within the visible Church. The virtues, and vices, of the saints are set forth in Scripture as examples of how to act, and not act, within the body of Christ.
We read in the Bible about Adam and Eve. The sin of Adam plunged all of humanity into sin, sorrow, and shame, when he rebelled against God (Gen. 3:1-7). The ruin Adam caused necessitates the redemption found in Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5).
The lie of Abraham, placed his wife Sarah in a morally compromising position before Abimelech the king (Gen. 20:1-18).
The anger of Moses, caused the unjustifiable death of an Egyptian overseer (Ex. 2:11-13).
The transgression of David, produced adultery, deceit, coverup, and murder, causing an innocent child to die, the baby born to Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:15-17).
Turning from sacred history to secular history, we read about the Spanish Inquisition, and the horrors that religious individuals did to an alleged heretic. Those who viewed themselves as being sanctified, and spiritual, demanded repentance from everyone who disagreed with them on any point, however trivial.
The Crusades encouraged men, women, and children to go to Jerusalem, and kill in the name of Christ. The hatred and hostility in the heart needed to take part in a Crusade was covered by religious words, and pious motives— to protect Christian travelers in the Middle East, and to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims.
Today, one prevalent form in the Church, of justifying expressions from the dark side of the soul, is to say something, in the name of love and concern. It is a matter of conscience, we are told. Through cruel corresponndance, and in private conversations the dogs of personal destruction are let out to roam about, bite and destroy. Because this happens the apostolic counsel is to “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Phil. 3:2).
What does it matter, if false motives are ascribed to a person?
What does it matter, if truth is forsaken because facts are not first verified?
What does it matter, if libel gives way to slander, and slander gives way to gossip, and gossip gives way to broken fellowship? It is a matter of personal conscience!
What does it matter, what damage is done to others, and the local Church, if a person can vent their anger in the name of being honest, and spew forth the most vile thoughts of the dark side of their soul?
Solomon reminds us there is nothing new under the sun, which means that what individuals do today, they have always done.
The life of Moses offers a Biblical example. Despite leading the people from bondage to liberty, and caring for the Hebrews without censorship, time and again the people of the Exodus Generation revolted against Moses.
On one occasion, a man named Korah led 250 well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council to speak against Moses. The story of the evil they did is told in Numbers 16.
David wrote that many of his enemies hated him without cause (Psalms 69:4).
Jesus was the object of slander, by being falsely accused.
Jesus was accused of blasphemy, on three separate occasions. The charge was made when Jesus told a paralytic man that his sins were forgiven (Matt. 9:1-8), for making Himself God (John 10:30-33), and for claiming to be “the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63-66).
Jesus was accused of sedition. When He was crucified, a sign was placed over His head that read, “King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37). The message of Rome was clear. There is no king but Caesar.
Jesus was accused of wanting to overturn the Law of Moses. But Jesus was not going to overturn the Law of Moses, for it spoke of Him as the Promised Messiah (Matt. 5:17).
Like Moses, and Jesus, the apostle Paul knew what it was like to be falsely charged. When Paul stood before Felix, a lawyer named Tertullus brought accusations against him on behalf of the leaders of Israel. The four false charges are stated in Acts 24:5-6.
“For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: 6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.”
Paul was accused of being a loimos, loy’-mos], a plague (literally, a disease, or figuratively, a pest). By simply trying to persuade people of the truth of the gospel, Paul was a pest because his teaching was offensive to his opponents.
Paul was accused of sedition or causing division. The irony is that the person who really causes division is the one who brings a false accusation against a leader without witnesses. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19).
Paul was accused of being a leader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The reality, is that those who are faithful to the Lord according to the Word of God. are part of the one Church which the Lord is building (Matt.16:18; Acts 2:47).
Paul was accused of desecrating the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. This was only a rumor, and a false accusation. However, like so much slander, it was taken seriously by the uninformed. Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt. 5:11).
So, what is to be done when one is falsely accused? There are several options to consider.
One option, is to fight fire with fire, and destroy the slanderer. However, all this will do is set the world on fire. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6).
A second option, is to bring the matter before the Church as quickly as possible. Those who speak against another person in the congregation could be given a forum in a Bible Class, or in a congregational meeting, to say what they have to say, and let the Church judge the matter. There is Biblical and historical precedent for this (1 Cor. 5:1-5).
A third option is to be silent and say absolutely nothing. When Jesus came before Pilate to answer the false charges against Him, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Then, there is the option to allow individuals to go their separate ways, as Paul and Barnabas did when they became conflicted about what to do with John Mark.
“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).
The final option, and the most desirable, is to find reconciliation. Had Judas Iscariot been like the prodigal son and said, “Father, I have sinned,” his name would not be known in infamy as a contemptible traditor.
There are some loving pastors and spiritual leaders who have experienced betrayal by someone they have ministered to for years, and oftened helped. Nevertheless, they still prefer to embrace, in biblical imagery, a wayward son, or daughter, who comes to themselves and says to their spiritual father in the faith, “I have sinned. I am sorry I left you. I am sorry I hurt you. I am sorry I slandered you. I want to come home.”
Rarely does such a scene take place, for the heart grows harder once the conscience is defiled, but, when God grants the gift of authentic repentance, there is a moment of precious reconcilation, followed by a fellowship meal.
Peter left Jesus. Peter hurt Jesus. Peter betrayed Jesus, but then he wept tears of repentance. That is the difference between Judas and Peter. One man wept in sorrow over what he had said against Jesus, the other man “went to his own place,” with his “conscience” intact, into an eternal darkness (Acts 1:25).
There is a dark side to individuals. However, when dealing with a slanderer, do not address them in anger, or in emotional pain, but according to gospel terms, as the Spirit gives much needed wisdom. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the apostles, and the Spirit, has to say to the Church. Study Revelation 22:15