Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 29, 1962
NUMBER 30, PAGE 1,12a

The Sin Of Spiritual Cannibalism

Robert H. Farish

"Spiritual cannibalism" is, in the Galatian letter, put as the antithesis of the duty to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Paul wrote: "....thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." (Gal. 5:14,15) "Cannibalism" is defined as: "eating human flesh by mankind or of any animal by its own kind." The revolting and unnatural action of cannibalism (biting and devouring one another) is selected by the Holy Spirit as a fit figure to describe the behaviour of those members of the church whose actions toward one another can have only one result if persisted in, namely, mutual destruction. When a member of the Lord's church bites and devours another member of the Lord's church, he is devouring his own kind. The very thought of physical cannibalism is revolting to any normal person. Visualize such a scene! A family of brothers and sisters eagerly gorging themselves on one another, biting out chunks of one another and gulping them down. Soon the inevitable destruction of that family occurs. Such is the picture painted by the Holy Spirit to deter members of the church from a course which will result in their being "consumed one of another."

The law regulating a Christian's actions toward another Christian is: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The opposite course is introduced by the writer with the word, "But." The preposition "but" expresses opposition, contradiction, or antithesis. "Spiritual cannibalism" is the antithesis of "love thy neighbor as thyself." The thesis upon which a Christian, any Christian, whether he be elder, preacher, editor, etc., must operate in his relation to a neighbor is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." There is no acceptable synthesis between these two courses. They are contrary one to the other; never shall the two meet on divinely approved middle ground. The law is inexorable: "if ye bite and devour one another take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." The consequences of "spiritual cannibalism" is mutual destruction. "God is no respecter of persons." He has licensed no one to bite and devour with impunity.

A dog fight may start off with only two dogs involved, but it will not long continue limited to just two, if there are other dogs around, for others will get into the act and a melee will develop in which all are involved. In like manner, when one brother "bites" another, the urge to retaliate in kind is strong in the one "bitten." The urge to "bite" the "biter" is the strength of this device of the devil. When the one whose good name has been ruthlessly injured gives way to the urge to bite back, others are drawn into a ghoulish orgy of spiritual cannibalism. If members of the church could be caused to see that successful "biting and devouring" is a victory for the forces of evil, perhaps the relish for such would abate.

How can "spiritual cannibalism" be avoided? The answer to this is given by the apostle; he wrote: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" When one "bites and devours," he is fulfilling the lust of the flesh. There is no spiritual gratification to be derived from "spiritual cannibalism." The apostle then proceeds to list the works of the flesh. This list includes more sins which can be identified as "biting and devouring" than any other type. Enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, division, parties, envyings are listed in the same catalogue with fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, etc. By what authority can a Christian condemn one but condone or tolerate the other???

The approved actions of reproving and rebuking are not to be confused with the condemned action of biting and devouring. Every member of the church has the divinely imposed obligation to "reprove and rebuke"; he must also "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints," but every member of the church is required to avoid "biting and devouring." There is no conflict between the divine requirement and the divine prohibition. The Holy Spirit requires the Christian to "reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2) The same Holy Spirit requires the Christian to refrain from biting and devouring.

Care should be exercised to avoid arraying "truth" against "love." Mistakes are often made by quoting passages of Scripture which approve rebuking a brother, in justification of actions which by no stretch of the imagination can be identified as anything but "spiritual cannibalism." It is a serious blunder to seek to justify "biting and devouring" by quoting passages which require "reproving and rebuking"; it is equally serious to condemn proper "reproving and rebuking" by citing prohibitions against "biting and devouring."

"Enmities, strife, jealousies, wrath, factions, divisions and parties are not characteristics of the fruits of the Spirit,

— 413 E. Groesbeck, Lufkin, Texas