Brothers, we don’t always have to be first

flame

Do you always need to be first?

As a blogger, to some degree you’re always at war with the tyranny of the urgent. The first person to jump on a particular controversy typically “wins” the traffic. The first person to write a good book review… you name it, there’s something that drives a lot of us to be first.

But do we?

Here’s the problem: sometimes in our desire to be first, we rush to judgment. We write sloppy reviews. We critique with too broad a brush. We make mountains out of mole hills. We make a foolish comment on a blog.

Not always, but sometimes.

This week, John MacArthur’s running the Strange Fire conference. Tim Challies has been providing some very helpful summaries of the sessions. One of the things Tim mentioned in his wrap-up of day one is his desire to see this event used to build greater unity within the church. But reading the comments from both sides of the argument (including some friends of mine), it seems unity is the last thing that’s going to come from this.

Why?

Because, just looking at the comments, both sides are trying to be first in the race to be “right.”

Some charismatics are calling shenanigans on the whole event, largely because they’ve personally felt injured by it. And they should be bothered by that. Much of the talk I’ve seen from some of the more rabid MacArthurites has been incredibly mean-spirited. And MacArthur himself has a history of being a bit too sweeping in his polemical declarations.

But broad stroke critiques go both ways.

A pastor on Twitter makes this point well:

Erik Raymond is exactly right. We laugh when people mock cessationists, but don’t appreciate being on the receiving end. It’s like those gag hand-buzzers: the shock’s only funny if you’re the one giving it.

Brothers (and sisters), there’s a reason the Bible commands us to be slow to speak (James 1:19). When we speak too quickly, we wind up saying things that are hurtful, hateful or just plain dumb.

Charismatic friends, take the legitimate critiques seriously—when Conrad Mbewe speaks of the charismatic chaos gripping his nation and continent, listen. He lives in that world and knows more about what’s going on than you do.

Likewise, Cessationist friends, some of you need to start listening before going on the attack. Your concerns about the excesses of some charismatics (arguably the majority, if TBN is representative) are valid, but if you want to gain a hearing, maybe start by asking thoughtful questions first.

We don’t always have to be first. The person who’s first is sometimes right, but risks jumping to an unfair conclusion and hurting many of their brothers and sisters in Christ in the process. Being slow to speak doesn’t mean being apathetic. It means being biblical, taking the time to appropriately assess what’s going on in light of Scripture.

And isn’t that what we’re all called to do?

  • Kim Shay

    Great post, Aaron. I would say it goes even beyond being first, to an erroneous belief that we must say something. Sometimes, we think that the ability to comment on every issue means we have the need to comment. I think there are some occasions when people who know very little about an issue would be better to sit and think about it before commenting.

  • Jesvin Jose

    Brother! Thanks for writing this. After reading some of the comments there, I thought about writing another comment to ask something similar that you wrote. In controversial issues, we need to be more charitable than we have been. Thanks again for reminding us.