Acts 13:10 You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
Several years ago, I sat in a recovery meeting where the treasurer was obviously high. He admitted he had been using but felt that he should hang onto his position as treasurer. This caused some division among the group, with those who felt he was unfit to carry the money on one side and those who wanted to give him another chance on the other.
Though he admitted he had no intention of quitting, most in the group thought it too harsh to take away his position. This was utter nonsense, but even those who thought he was unfit to be treasurer were very timid in their objection. No one wanted to state the obvious truth. An active addict cannot carry the money! It was ludicrous to think otherwise, but in our unwillingness to offend, no one would call him out. Being Too Nice, I said nothing. I just walked out.
I am hesitant to write about Too Nice as a defect, as this is a really tough one to get right. In calling out nonsense, we are more likely to err in the extreme. Calling out the harsh truth is a tightrope that very few of us walk well. We are either too nice, ignoring the truth, or we go overboard, letting our own defects of anger and pride run wild.
Paul and Barnabas, in today’s passage, met with a false prophet who dogged their ministry, opposing their message. A government official had summoned the apostles to hear the gospel, but this agitator kept interrupting. We are told that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, when he called him out. You son of the devil… This man was directly opposing the work of God and Paul thus, rebuked him. The man was literally blinded and shut his mouth.
In our desire to be nice, we have lost the ability to call nonsense, nonsense. We live in a culture of offense where the one who claims offense has the moral high ground. Never mind if he or she is wrong or right, if he or she is offended, the offender is in the wrong. We have accepted the idea that love and respect mean that we cannot disagree. Thus, when the treasurer comes to a recovery meeting high, we cannot take away his position. That would be too harsh.
When my addiction and destructive behavior came to light, I desperately needed those around me to tell me the painful truth. I was a mess and I needed help. Kindness was not going to get me to treatment at that point. I needed to see the harsh reality of my condition and I needed those around me to call me out. Thankfully, they did.
You can see my concern in writing about this. I do not wish to use Paul’s brutal rebuke as license to turn my pride and anger loose. I have seen men erupt in anger, claiming they were filled with God’s spirit, when it was obviously nothing other than their own defects boiling to the surface.
It is a narrow line that I walk when I try to be a prophet, calling out the truth. Paul earned the right to call this man out as he had spread the gospel, becoming known as a messenger of God. If I am known as a jerk, always needing to be right, I am not spreading the gospel, I am spreading my own hate and anger.
If and when I am called upon by God to stand up and call out nonsense, I need to be sure that I am not looking at myself. In focusing on me, I just become an angry menace. It is only in keeping my eyes on God that I can stand for truth without falling myself.