We just finished as study in the book of Jonah in our Bible study groups. As we studied through that true story I became aware of an application for Church leaders today.
On one hand ... Jonah ran away from the Lord when he was told to give a message to the Ninevites. Because of his running away toward Tarshish he had to go through major correction and hardship. Many pastors today run away from their duty of being watchmen for the churches. When they know they should be telling their people to get away from false teachers, they choose to ignore their duty to stand for truth in their church. The Lord is telling churches today, as He did in the first century, that we must take our stand against false doctrine and false prophecy. Instead many leaders run away. But they don't realize that by running away they and their church will have to go through major correction from the Lord. Tough times are ahead for those who choose to sidestep the issues of the day. I have seen this happen over and over again. Yet many leaders would rather go down with the boat, taking others with them, than to make a personal sacrifice and jump into the stormy seas, trusting the Lord with the outcome. What they don't realize is the wonderful blessing of repenting and turning again to trusting and obeying the Lord will result in saving many people, including themselves.
1Ti 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
This is not a time to run away from the truth. It is a time to obey the Lord when He calls. If a leader runs away he can still save many by jumping into the turbulent seas of apologetics and standing for the truth. But he must repent and trust the Lord for the outcome. When you repent and turn again to the Lord after running away there will be consequences. But the Lord will carry you through in the belly of the fish. You will die to self and be reborn as a true follower of Christ.
On the other hand ... there are those who obey the Lord and proclaim the message but do so without compassion. They proclaim God's judgment on false teachers and false prophets but without the escape clause, so to speak. Jonah proclaimed the message of the Lord: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." (Jonah 3:4). But Jonah knew beforehand that the Lord wanted to save the people of Nineveh from destruction.
Jonah 4:2 2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
Jonah was to proclaim not just the judgment of the Lord but also His call to repentance, yet his proclamation was without compassion. Those who do apologetics need to have God's compassion for those who are living in the sins of false teaching and false prophecy. Apologists need to pray that God will grant false teachers repentance.
2Ti 2:25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
Those who stand for the Faith and the Truth of God's Word should rebuke false teachers sharply, but do so with the goal of redemption, not destruction.
Titus 1:13-14 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.
Of course when there is no repentance forthcoming we are to mark and avoid false teachers.
Ro 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
But our job is to reconcile sinners to Jesus Christ, not push them further away.
2Co 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting menís sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We must recognize that those who teach false doctrines and make false prophecies are caught in sin that leads to death. We need to tell them to repent because there are always a few who will. Those who do not we warn believers to avoid.
So ... Christian leadership needs the balance of not running away from telling the truth, but being sure to tell the truth with compassion. We need to be mature in the Lord, not being tossed about by the waves of false teaching, but also speaking the truth in love.
Eph. 4:14-16 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.