I was flabbergasted that this fellow would go through John Piper's ministry with such a fine-toothed comb as to uncover a tiny little technicality, a matter of semantics really, to such an extent that he is now poisoned against everything that is good and edifying and encouraging about Piper's ministry. Truly, if anyone took a complete inventory of all Piper's books and sermons, any concern surrounding this one little statement in question would be lost in a sea of solid teaching.
In recent weeks I have seen similar attacks on Ravi Zacharias and Ray Comfort. I confess I also sinfully became consumed in a similar discussion regarding Hank Hanegraaff. In all four incidents concerning these prominent and respected teachers, one thing remained constant: we were "straining gnats."
This phrase comes from Matthew 23:24, in which Jesus rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees: "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" One thing is certain here -- that there was a gnat to be strained. In the case of this scripture, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were focusing on something that warranted a legitimate criticism. However, the issue was miniscule in comparison to their own sin of which they had not repented.
In Christian circles, we often do this very same thing. In some cases, the "camel" we swallow is our own imperfection. We'd rather point the finger at what someone else is doing wrong in order to pull focus from our own sin. But in other cases, the "camel" we swallow is all the good qualities that are possessed by the target of our criticism. Instead of thanking God for the blessing given to us in the form of other Christians (Romans 1:8), we focus entirely on the flaws of these Christians. What often results is a forgetfulness over all the good these people have contributed to the kingdom.
Is John Piper perfect? Absolutely not. Has Ray Comfort made some choices I would not agree with? Most definitely. Has Ravi Zacharias bungled an opportunity to clearly enunciate the gospel? Who among us hasn't? And as for Hank Hanegraaff, well . . . let's just say there are going to be those members of the faith with whom I just don't see eye-to-eye. But do these human imperfections make these men heretics (or friends of heretics)? If we focus too closely on the flaws of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be tempted to avoid them. This is exactly what Satan wants!
People's bad choices, poor communication skills, and character flaws should not surprise us, but even moreso, they should not distract us from the good qualities people possess. Yet this is exactly what Satan uses in order to cause division. He likes to take our eyes off the overall work and character of a solid brother in Christ and tries to convince us to focus on the tiniest little thing about that solid Christian that may be "unbiblical." What follows is a temptation to separate from that individual.
Saints, do you realize that if we were to renounce a solid Christian leader every time he fell short, we'd have no teachers left! The same thing can happen to us in our interpersonal relationships. If we focus too closely on the flaws of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will be tempted to avoid them. This is exactly what Satan wants!
In fact, the very sin I had committed which led to the creation of this blog began in this same exact manner. The man with whom I was angry for so long is a sinner. He has character flaws. He made choices I didn't agree with. But I chose to focus on his imperfections. As a result, I had forgotten everything about him that is good and righteous and godly.
Is there a friend or family member that you have been harboring resentment against because you are focusing too heavily on their flaws? Have you forgotten all the things about that person that you love because you are so consumed with their imperfections? Do you realize that the enemy is using these imperfections to keep you away from this person? Do you see that this is a distraction which has resulted in division? Do not allow the enemy to gain a foothold. Repent of your sin and love your neighbor. This was not only the Lord's commandment (John 15:12), it was also His prayer (John 17:20-26). We must learn to love one another unconditionally, knowing we are going to fail at times and disappoint one another. The Bible says none are good. And yes, that means that even John Piper is bad: