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On Being Agreeable

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs


religion, articles, christianity

It is nice to be loved and admired. It is good and pleasant to get along with everybody and disagree with no one. Being non­judgmental and open­minded is fun. To be so fuzzyheaded that everything is blurred and indistinct can be Arcadian. Everyone wants to be happy and wants all others to be happy. Idealism appeals to all and is rejected by none. Jesus was an idealist, but he knew the heart of man and understood that many would reject the narrow path in favor of the broad way that leads to destruction.

This longing for "peace perfect peace in this dark world below" leads some to compromise basic principles of right and wrong. It is tantalizing to envision a heaven on earth-a place were there is one big happy family and no briars or thistles to sting and irritate. Religious liberals dream of utopia and call it ecumenism. This imaginary ecstasy has the same appeal as communism and is just as impractical.

The illusion continues and there are those who paint a pretty picture of peace and prosperity and then cannot tell the difference between the picture and the real world. Craving universal brotherhood blinds the eye of even the astute and renders them Machiavellian.

Peace is normally a great good, and normally it coincides with righteousness, but it is righteousness and not peace which should bind the conscience of a nation as it should bind the conscience of an individual (Theodore Roosevelt, Sixth Annual Message to Congress, 4 Dec. 1906).

We love everyone and want to be loved by all, but we must remember that love is blind-not stupid. Paul commands us to "be at peace with all men," but only to the extent that it lies within our power and is possible (Rom. 12:18). There are some people who will not let you be at peace with them; there are others who demand peace at the price of sacrificing righteousness. Religious harmony is desirable but not always workable.

Jesus prophesied that his words would sometime fall on hard, or thorny, or rocky hearts and produce no good and lasting result (Luke 8:11­14). Thank God that some seed falls on good hearts and redounds to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind, but even then it does not produce alike-"some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt. 13:8). It is ivory­towered to suppose that all receive the Word of God exactly alike. The bad reflection is not on God but on the human hearers. The fault is not with the Bible-its teaching is consistent because it is true-but the fault is in the heart of the receiver of God's message.

The Son of God warned that his teaching would bring the animosity of the world. Jesus said of the apostles, "I have given them thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). There is a connection between having the Word of God and being hated by the world; there is a correlation between truth and not being of the world, just as Jesus was not of the world (See also verse 8). The world hated Jesus because he testified that its works are evil (John 7:7). His testimony (words or truth) did not bring applause and approval, but hostility and rejection.

Jesus said to his apostles, "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18­19).

Sanctification is by the truth of God's Word (John 17:17). Those who do not honor the Word with absolute obedience are not holy (sanctified) and therefore are not of God. Intermittent obedience is disobedience-at least part of the time. Those who do not obey the gospel shall suffer the punishment of "eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thess. 1:8­9). Faithful followers of God's Word cannot be in accord with "them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus."

No amount of sincere yearning to be united with all men will change that basic truth. You cannot serve both God and mammon.

Some will say, "It is possible for saved people to be in denominations." Well, maybe, but finding out for sure is not hard. We are washed from our sins in the water of baptism (Acts 22:16). Baptism involves a burial (Col. 2:12). Baptism is also a circumcision not made with hands, which has as its purpose making us alive together with Christ, "having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Col. 2:11­13).

So, if you know someone in a denomination you hope has been born from above, just ask, "Were you immersed and raised to walk a new life?" If the answer is no, then the person is unwashed. If the answer is yes, then ask, "Was your burial and resurrection for the purpose of washing away your sins?" If the answer is no, the person is unsaved.

Of course, some people in denominations do not know what they did nor why they did it. Upon learning what the Bible teaches about baptism, some will claim to have obeyed its precepts, when in fact they have not. It is a disservice to allow them to go to the final judgment unprepared because you did not press the point and make them see their need. You are not a friend to the person who has not fully obeyed God if you have not "expounded unto him the way of God more accurately" (See Acts 18:26).

No matter what your druthers are, it is a stubborn and undeniable fact that 99.9% of the people in modern denominational bodies are under the impression that baptism is because of the forgiveness of sin and do not understand that it is to obtain forgiveness. Such people cannot possibly be saved, nor are they children in the family of God. Many such folks think sprinkling is an acceptable substitute for baptism.

It is disingenuous, given this premise, to excuse fellowship with the disobedient and rebellious on the grounds that in some remote and rare situation a person who has a denominational affiliation may have studied himself into an accurate knowledge of Bible baptism. The possibility exists, but it is scarce. One in a denomination who has learned about baptism, the church and salvation would be compelled to teach it to others and this would bring expulsion from his sectarian church. Many disciples who learned from the scriptures the plan of salvation and began to practice it have been driven from their religious associations. The same result happens today.

It is good to be good and it is pleasant to be pleasant. Still, if we are so devoted to being good and pleasant that we lose sight of the need to be right, we make our cause pitiable. I have no interest in alienating and irritating those who say they love Christ and his cross, but neither can I make concessions to those who know but will not do the truth, or who do not know nor want to know the truth, or who will not accept truth when it is presented to them.

In every age the prophets of God have been lone and singular men. Noah's family was sequestered. He was alone but he was right and the masses were evil.

Abram was unique in Ur. He worshiped one, true, living God and all others were falling at the feet of Ur­Nammu, or groveling before one of the other idols of Mesopotamia. Abram was called and went out "not knowing whether he went." He was unique among the people of Ur, but was not tragic.

Jeremiah is forlorn. He complains, "O Jehovah, thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am become a laughing­stock all the day, every one mocketh me" (Jer 20:7). His fellow priests, his fellow citizens and, finally, his own family rejected and tried to kill him. He cries out: "And if I say, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot contain" (Jer 20:9). The great prophet was painfully aware of his sad plight. "For I have heard the defaming of many, terror on every side. Denounce, and we will denounce him, say all my familiar friends, they that watch for my fall; peradventure he will be persuaded, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him" (Jer 20:10). The only way Jeremiah could face this terrible rejection was to realize that while he had no human companion or sympathizer, he did have an Almighty helper and sustainer. Out of his loneliness and despair he said, "But Jehovah is with me as a mighty one and a terrible: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail; they shall be utterly put to shame, because they have not dealt wisely, even with an everlasting dishonor which shall never be forgotten" (Jer 20:11).

The Bible is replete with noble characters who loved truth more than life and who taught righteousness in the face of persecution and death. Jeremiah in a slime pit, the head of John the baptist on a platter, and Jesus on the cross are symbolic of the currency in which the world has always paid her prophets. To be popular is desirable, but to be popular at the price of sacrificing truth is insane.

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ (Gal 1:10).

Would God that the one true church never forget that "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12).

"Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime" (Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values, "The Sense of Human Dignity," sct. 5, 1961).

I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing (2 Tim 4:1­8).


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Mach i a vel lism (mak'e­e-vel' iz'em) noun The political doctrine of Machiavelli, which denies the relevance of morality in political affairs and holds that craft and deceit are justified in pursuing and maintaining political power (American Heritage Dictionary). Return to article.


Published April 1997