The psalmist prayed to be delivered from the strife of tongues. Jesus said to leap for joy when we are reviled for His sake. The apostle Paul vigorously defended himself, but only when necessary. That necessity was when he was convinced that the attack on him was in fact a disguised attack on the purity and consequent potency of the gospel. Sometimes he named names (Alexander) and sometimes he didn’t (all in Asia have deserted me). Sometimes, as with the Galatians, the argument extended down into the arcana of how many times St. Paul had gone to Jerusalem. This was not an example of Paul getting side-tracked into petty details, but rather an illustration of how important details are (when they are the right details). The seating arrangements at Antioch were a big deal, even though they were not widely recognized as such at the time. But the apostle Paul saw it, and when he saw it, there was a controversy. It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of heaven, and the pattern of the New Testament shows that many of the tribulations arise from within the Church. And many times, opposition to the so-called “troublemakers” within the Church forms because moderate Christians want to win the respect of the unbelieving world, or moderate Christians want to do something to lessen the enmity or disdain of the unbelieving world. It never works, but they never stop trying.
As a result of what happened this last week, I wanted to publicly thank God for all the saints who have contacted me in various ways to let me know they are praying for us. I also want to thank those praying for us who did not contact us. The emails and phone calls have meant a great deal. I wanted to thank Randy Booth for his friendship and kindness, and I wanted to make a special point of thanking Tim and David Bayly for their principled and biblical stand on this. The Baylys and I only know one another through our respective ministries, although I believe that when I was eight we may have played together at a conference. Their dad, Joe Bayly, and my father, Jim Wilson, were friends, and taught at a conference together in the Shenandoah Valley. I think Tim and I built a dam in a nearby brook, but that is the only project we may have worked on together.
But in response to the concern of our friends, let me just say that we are doing quite well, and rejoicing in the Lord. God has been very gracious to us. And although we have a responsibility to try to avoid unnecessary conflict with brothers, as we tried to avoid this one, we can still be very grateful for it after the fact. This is because this is the kind of fracas that obviously revealed things that needed to be revealed.
And of course, Nancy’s response to the imbroglio was exactly right. “We need to take our sabbath feasting up a notch.” Tonight at our table we are having fifteen adults and nine children (but with three of those children still in their buckets, jabbering from the periphery in order to silence the foe and the avenger). We are grilling steaks that have been marinating since Friday afternoon, served along with pistachio green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. Put this together with a very nice Cabernet, multiple kinds of dinner rolls (with soft honey butter for the kids), ice cream sundaes and an abundance of chocolate afterwards, and the result will be that we will get stuffed to the glory of God, to bring in the Shorter Catechism.
We will begin by singing the first verse of Psalm 20.”The Lord hear thee in troubled times/may Jacob’s God defend thee/and send out strength from Zion’s hill/and from His sanctuary/May He regard thine offerings/with all thy sacrifices/and grant thee all thy heart’s desires/fulfilling all thy purpose/as His good grace suffices.”
The sabbath toast will be what it always is:
This is the day that the Lord has made!
We will rejoice and be glad in it!