When I was a kid I was somewhat traumatized by a viewing of the horror film, Night of the Living Dead. The story, such as it is, deals with a group of strangers locked in an old farmhouse seeking to survive the night against an onslaught of zombies who have surrounded the house. As the film unfolds the drama shifts away from the zombies outside to the increasing tensions inside the house. Before long, the struggle for survival is not so much against the monsters without, but, sadly, the monsters within. As the tragedy unfolds, you eventually have the people within the house seeking to kill one another, rather than being united against the real threat from outside.
Believe it or not, I do have a point to make from all this. The church has ever and always been surrounded by dangerous foes. Chief among them is our adversary who roams about like a lion seeking whom he may devour. We find the apostles warning about dangerous teachers, wolves, and other assorted heretics. We find the dangers of the world looming large and seductively against the people of God. We also find the great dangers that come from our own heart as we strive to put to death the deeds of the flesh and to increasingly put on the virtues of the new man in Christ.
With so many “zombies” on the loose, why is it that so much of our fighting happens within the house? Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for lively discussion and even sharp rebukes within the house (see how Paul dealt with Peter in Galatians 2 for instance). What I have witnessed, however, especially among bloggers (and I am dealing with Reformed bloggers, because they are the ones I generally read) is that the majority of their ammunition is fired at their friends and not their enemies. It is my contention that if all true brethren had to cease their criticisms of one another for one week there would be tumbleweed blowing through the internet. I confess there is no end the critical comments that can go on in my own heart. You name a ministry, a church, a book, a preacher or teacher and I can find something negative to say about it! But do I have to? There is not a single preacher with whom I agree all the time. The most popular writers and pastors and conferences speakers, on occasion, make me roll my eyes (thankfully someone always rolls them back to me). If and when they do, must I share it with the world? Sound the alarm?
Why have I saved some of my most savage comments for those within the body rather than for those without? I’m not talking about heretics or even those who are on the far side of the theological spectrum—I’m talking about close allies.
There are real dangers and real threats to the body of Christ, and yet, too often I have been more concerned with what I have perceived to be the theological faults of true and useful brethren (he’s kind of a dispensationalist-bang!, he’s a bit charismatic—bang, bang!, he’s postmil or premil—boom!, he likes the Red Sox-yech!).
There are plenty of real zombies and I do not want to use my ammunition on those who are ultimately my friends and allies.
I don’t think Paul had zombies in mind when he penned Galatians 5:15, but it fits, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” I have not lost my will to fight. I just want to fight real monsters.Jim Savastio Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville