Back in the 80’s when MTV actually played music videos, Nick Lowe performed his one and only hit song, Cruel to be Kind. This song is based on the old adage that you’ve got to be cruel to be kind. This expression is typically used when you say or do something to a friend or family member, (most often your spouse or significant other), that will usually cause them anger or dismay, but, at least you believe that you did that act in that person’s best interests. We often find that constructive criticism will cause resentment from the person that is subjected to that criticism and that resentment is directed right back at the criticizer. Even though we have the best of intentions when pointing out that particular shortcoming or suggesting that perhaps an alternate approach would be wiser, our helpfulness is often perceived as unwelcome and meddlesome. Truth of the matter is that one would indeed be cruel if we would fail to correct our loved ones, because failing to do so could place them at risk to harm themselves, physically or perhaps spiritually.
As disciples of Christ we are often called to step out of our comfort zones to advance the Kingdom of God. Scripture teaches us how important it is to lead a godly life, endeavoring to achieve some level of righteousness that would be pleasing to our God. Scripture also teaches how critical it is to continue to meet with each other, sharing our prayers and encouraging each other, making certain that we all grow and remain strong in the Spirit. One of those tasks our Lord would have us undertake is correcting our brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone astray, no matter how well intentioned they believe they are. 2 Timothy 4:2-5, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
So many comments from our more enlightened brethren in the progressive ELCA are directed at traditional Christians that uphold the authority of Scripture, chastising them for, what they perceive, as an overemphasis on the Law, while accusing them of failing to properly understand Christian love and unity. Luke 6:41-42, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” We are not called to judge, but to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. Our brothers and sisters in the ELCA are faced with the ever present doctrine of bound conscience. Bound conscience is used by the leaders of the ELCA to affirm any number of worldly desires and opinions that are at odds with God’s written Word.
This bound conscience allows one to not only question the long held tenets of our faith, but to also disregard those statutes handed down through the words of the Bible. Maintaining the unity of the ELCA takes precedence over maintaining unity in Christ. We are called to be of one mind in matters of our faith, and bound conscience, in and of itself, leads the faithful to themselves instead of to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no unity when we cannot agree on proper Christian doctrine. When one can believe whatever it is that suits them, there is no unity in Christ. When all are called to respect a brother or sisters opinion that is in obvious error, how can we possibly maintain the unity of the body? When the presiding bishop of the ELCA fails to maintain sound doctrine and allows lay people to undermine God’s authority, he betrays his pledge to our Lord.
Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” For many years, Lutheran Core and the Word Alone Network have been in discussion with the leaders of the ELCA in an effort to lead them back to traditional Lutheranism. They have been fought with, marginalized, and flat out ignored, leading to a schism in the church that eventually birthed the LCMC and NALC, safe havens for Lutherans that continue to uphold the authority of Scripture.
It continues to greatly grieve many former ELCA members that the church that they grew up with has left the Lord behind. And it is so troubling that so many of our brothers and sisters that remain fail to understand why so many have left the ELCA. Many who remain steadfast in their support of the ELCA continue casting their anger toward those who have left to walk with a church true to the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Pray that our brothers and sisters that remain in the ELCA choose to dwell in the Word, rather than to simply listen to those who would turn them away from God and toward a closer relationship with the evil one. Continue to pray that the collective plank in their eyes be removed so that they can truly see where the leaders of the ELCA are leading them. It may seem cruel to them that so many brothers and sisters have chosen to leave, but it may be the greatest kindness to lead them away from the wide path of tolerance, acceptance and diversity that the ELCA would have them travel upon.