by Edward W. Pagan
Sentry Magazine, March 2001
The title of this article comes from one of the first movies that Tom Hanks made called The Man with One Red Shoe. It describes the infighting that goes on between two rivals within the CIA and their efforts to ruin each other's careers. The line, in particular, is spoken by an underling to one of the rivals who suggests killing a presumed supporter (Hanks) of the other rival. His boss tells him, "We just can't go around killing people because there is a congressional investigation." Notice, he does not criticize the desire to kill, only the timing. Eventually, though, the leader decides that Hanks has become too dangerous to his cause and gives permission to his subordinates to go ahead and terminate him. The movie is silly but hilarious, and my wife and I have watched it countless times. This is why this line came to mind as I reflected upon the apparent rush to condemnation so often demonstrated by those who feel the necessity to stamp out "false teaching" anyplace and anytime they think they see it. Of course, no one wants to literally kill within our "fellowship", but there does seem to be a great desire to "kill" the influence of some.
Yes, I am fully aware of Jude's instruction to "contend for the faith". I am equally aware of Paul's instructions to "not be quarrelsome", "kind to all", "patient when wronged, "with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition" (II Timothy 2:24-26). Paul and Jude were not in contradiction with each other. There is a large difference in "contending earnestly" and "earnestly contentious". One of the things that I notice is that the loudest hue and cry to condemn various "false teachers" comes from those who are relatively younger in years and experience. It seems the older leaders that they follow try to hold them back for a while, telling them, "No, we must give them time to see the error of their ways and repent." But, after the leaders (magazine editors?) have decided enough time has elapsed, they finally relent and openly declare Bro. Misled as anathema. They do not criticize the desire of these young lions to declare anathema but only to state that they must give an undetermined amount of time before doing so.
We should speak against any false doctrine or practice. The Bible teaches this clearly. But, I believe the practices of those who are so willing to condemn anyone who disagrees with them are also wrong. We would all do well to heed the caution of Michael in condemning those we believe are in error (Jude 9). And perhaps this great desire to condemn is even more destructive to the kingdom of our Lord than those who are teaching a false doctrine on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, or the creation of the world, or whichever issue is the latest "apostasy" to grip the brotherhood. Is it a coincidence that Paul condemns this destructive attitude in the context of teaching against justification by law (Galatians 5 -- especially Galatians 5:5)? Is there a connection between law-based salvation and the willingness, even desire, to condemn others? Something to think about!