Vol.XV No.IV Pg.3
June 1978

One Strike, You're Out!

Dan S. Shipley

To say that Christians are imperfect people is but to acknowledge the obvious. However, to accept them as imperfect people is an entirely different matter — and one vitally related to the subject of fellowship.

In his book, No Little People, Francis Schaeffer points out how we err in expecting of men and women what they are not and may never become. He calls this "utopianism." He also says, "If we demand, in any of our relationships, either perfection or nothing, we will get nothing." While knowing "no one is perfect," we still may allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by the faults that surface in imperfect brethren. This seems especially true — regarding the views often held toward preachers. One disillusioning experience or report can have untold influence on a gospel preacher's reputation. The "strike" against him may range all the way from bad grammar in the pulpit to unruly children at home, but that can be fatal with unsympathetic umpiring brethren. With them it's, "One strike, you're out!" Absurd as it may seem, some have no confidence in certain preachers because they have heard (or thought) they play golf too much or hunt too much or have bad table manners. And worse, such a "strike" may be allowed to overshadow a multitude of good qualities and years of faithful service as though they meant nothing. No, we preachers are not perfect, and most of us will even admit it. We have our weaknesses and peculiarities — we make blunders. That's why we need kind, sympathetic and understanding brethren and not one-strike umpires. Even when the imperfection is of a more serious nature, say a matter of sin, all brethren deserve something more than rejection. God says that love "taketh not account of evil" (1 Cor. 13:5). Not, of course, that it condones wrong, but rather, it "keeps no score of wrongs" (NEB). Love does not "warehouse" faults of brethren as ammunition to be used against them later. Most churches are made up of Christians at all different stages of spiritual development. We really have no right to expect others to become "overnight" what it has taken us many years to attain — especially when our "attainments" leave something to be desired! Consequently, when brethren stumble (and they will) they need compassionate hearts offering helping hands. They DON'T need excusing or ignoring, but neither do they need to be treated as "out" by their brethren. Erring brethren need restoring, not rejecting (Gal. 6:1); converting, not casting-off (Jas. 5:19); and to be treated like brethren, not enemies (2 Thss. 3:15). We must guard against any temptation to treat weak brethren as worthless brethren, for most will manifest a weakness sooner or later. David did. So did Moses, Peter, and others. And very likely, YOU will!

After all, if Christians are imperfect people and you are a Christian... If it's important to accept the fact that others fall short, what about self? Could it be that the impatient and intolerant person imagines himself to be above such faults? Could it be that the "umpire" has a strike or two against him? Wouldn't it be awful to wind up on a whole team of umpires???