During Superbowl XLIX, one of the biggest mistakes in professional football was committed at the most critical moment of the game, and will unfortunately go down as an embarrassing blemish in the Seattle Seahawks history. Seattle’s 12th man stared in befuddlement as their Superbowl dreams were intercepted in the last minute of the game.
It was shocking, and I sympathize with Tim Challies sentiment regarding the play.
I am from Canada (strike 1) and haven’t watched a football game in six years (strike 2), and even I know that was a running play…
— challies (@challies) February 2, 2015
Challies was not the only one to weigh in. In fact, social media exploded with armchair quarterbacks dropping their two cents, criticizing everyone from players, to the coaching staff, to the water boy, to Katy Perry’s dancing sharks. Some of it was good-hearted humor, but some of it was down right mean. It was as if fans believed the Seahawks would have never been aware of their mistake, if Joe Schmoe from Kokomo did not tell them they made the wrong call. “If only these men who have dedicated their lives to the sport, men who have actually made it to the 1-yard line in the final minute of the Superbowl, could listen to me, this never would have happened.”
At 26 years old I won't allow 1 play or 1 moment define my career. I will keep evolving. #Motivation
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) February 2, 2015
But who has not made a dumb call they regretted? Or who has not said something and the moment it slips off the tongue, wished they could take back? Or who made a comment, that without context, was horribly misunderstood? What pastor can say he has stood in the pulpit and never made a statement he wishes he could have stated better, or not at all? Consider if every bad judgement call you made, became such a public spectacle, as it did for Russell Wilson?
Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but I sense a disturbing online trend within evangelicalism. It seems a witch hunt is taking place, and the simple slip of the tongue, sends out the rallying call for the online troops. Within minutes a person gets blasted, discredited, belittled and humiliated, pronounced guilty and deemed disqualified, through an online kangaroo court.
Accountability and Discernment
Let me be absolutely clear. I am not advocating removing accountability from the church. Words are important. Whether they be published and sold in a bookstore, spoken from the pulpit, or broadcast in 140 characters or less. Every word that proceeds from our mouth (and fingertips), we will be judged for (James 3:1). I am also not saying we neglect the need to exercise discernment and expose error (Even the secular world understands this, just ask Brian Williams). This is an absolute must for someone who shepherd’s the Church. Paul warned the church of Colosse regarding false teachers (Col 2:4, 8), and rebuked the Galatians for allowing the Judaizers to advance their error (Gal 1:6-9; 5:4). Paul was right to expose error, and had a personal stake in the matter, because they were publicly discrediting his ministry, motives, character, and ultimately the message of the Gospel. If one who teaches publicly does not align with the truth of Scripture, he can expect to be held accountable publicly.
However, are some of us being critical of others, simply because we see our heroes being critical?
There are always those who follow the crowd in a desire to be on the right side of history. Sports teams see it all the time: “Yeah, I’ve been a lifelong L.A. Kings fan, but can you explain to me what icing the puck means, and who is Lord Stanley?” People blindly jump on the bandwagon of winning sports teams, and they also do so in theological circles. Someone they admire, publicly calls another individual to accountability, and in order to align themselves with their hero, they offer their own critique, without fully understanding the issue at hand. “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind” (Prov 18:2).
Today a simple statement on social media can unleash a pack of wild dogs who have been lying in wait for fresh blood, ready to devour and destroy mercilessly. A mob of vicious critics assemble, growing because a crowd attracts a crowd. This is the danger of social media and a warning to everyone: be careful what you say, because you will be held accountable. But those who are quick to hold others accountable, be cautious… you also will be held accountable for what you say (Matt 7:1 – and for a clearer understanding on this passage, check this out)
Why do we jump on bandwagons? Admit it, we have all done it. And why do we feel the need to hide relatively anonymously behind a computer screen to call out someone publicly. It seems to me, the root of the problem can often be boiled down to pride. “I need to show everyone online that I’m right, and that <insert favorite target of the day> is not nearly as smart as I am.” “I must be God’s modern day David, because I am going to take down Goliath with my tweet or blog post.” If your goal is to see how many Facebook “likes” you can get, or your desire is to have your Tweet “favorited” and “retweeted” a record number of times, dude, you better check your heart before you click “submit.” If you really want to “stick it to someone,” check your heart! If you sincerely desire truth, restoration, the protection of the Gospel, and the opportunity to proclaim it, than do so with grace and love (1 John 2:9-11; 3:11-12; 4:7-12, 21; 5:16-17). In fact, before you pounce, ask, seek, try to understand, and consider your perceptions may be wrong.
What Are We Known For?
I don’t want to sound cliche, but we, the Church, should be known more for what we advocate than boycott. This doesn’t mean ignore all sin and error, but we walk a fine line. Ephesians 4:11-16 gives our mandate as the church, and can be summarized in verse 12: “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Preach the Word and don’t waste your time by being distracted with the drivel of the world.
As a contemporary example, Pastor John MacArthur has clearly made strong stances, yet his legacy is not for chasing after heretics and moral degenerates. Rather, he is known as a faithful Bible teacher, one who shepherds the flock of God entrusted to him. Sometimes he has to address error influencing the church, but it occurs within the context of the teaching of the Scriptures. What should we be known for? As the church, and especially those who are under-shepherds of the church, we should not have a reputation as those who are looking under every rock for trouble (2 Tim 2:25). After all, you could keep yourself busy and distracted until your dying breath. Don’t waste your time, when you could be far more proactive with the Gospel. The world will always act like the world, false teachers will always arise, and even the greatest living heroes of the church will mess up because they’re sinners just like you and me. Do not miss the opportunity to demonstrate the grace given to you through Christ Jesus by proclaiming His Gospel and letting the light of Christ expose the darkness.
But correct me if I’m wrong…