In Matthew chapter 13, verses 24-30, our Lord and Savior gave us a warning about attempting to weed out all of the phony followers, and counterfeit Christians from the kingdom. He said in verse 29 of that parable, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” In other words, there is an inherent danger any time we take it upon ourselves to “rid” the kingdom of the counterfeit; and that danger resides in the possibility of doing damage to the legitimate.
Now we need not get the idea that what Jesus was saying was that we cannot “recognize” the difference between the legitimate and the counterfeit. The scriptures are clear that men will be known by their fruit. His specific point here is just that it is not in our purview to “uproot” the counterfeit. The scriptures are clear enough in teaching us that it is enough to recognize the false follower without us taking the initiate to remove them.
This is certainly a different scenario than what the Bible teaches concerning practical Church Discipline.
It is also a different case than seeing to it that brethren are faithful to the scriptures, and honest in their service.
It does speak to the issue of doing damage to those who have failed in their Christian life, under the guise of uprooting the phonies in the Christian world. There is a difference between a Christian who has sinned, and a Counterfeit who has been revealed. There is also a difference in how they are to ulimately be dealt with; Counterfeits are merely to be revealed, while sinning Christians are to be restored. (Ultimately that is, after they have acknowledged that sin.)
The dilemma and problem comes when people cannot tell the difference between the two. Sometimes men cannot tell if they are dealing with a Christian who has failed, or a Counterfeit who is phony. In the Christian world, eventually people who can tell the difference, will/should come to the place of offering and granting full forgiveness, and complete restoration. However in the Lost World, where there is no spiritual ability to discern between the two, credibility for the legitimate is generally diminished.
The fact is that the presence of counterfeits ought to add value to the real, however in this fallen world the presence of counterfeits Christians cast doubt on all legitimate Christians.
The greater damage is done, however, when failing Christians are treated like phony Christians, and then every effort is made to uproot and destroy them. Too many Christians want to see their brethren, “get what’s coming to them” and pursue that end with an unrelenting passion; and then gloating like a redneck who’s won a spitting contest.
Let me say here, I never want to get what’s coming to me, nor do I want anyone else to get what’s coming to them, “specially they of the household of faith.” It is imperative that we learn to desire different things for “failing” Christians than we do for “phony” ones. I think that there are four quick lessons that every Christian ought to know in order to deal with sin within professed Christendom.
1.) Recognize the difference between the Counterfeit Saint and a Sinning Christian, and do not treat them the same.
2.) Revealing the Counterfeit Saint is enough, we do damage to the real thing when we attempt to destroy the false thing.
3.) Restoring the Sinning Saint is the Goal; it is not his punishment that we laud and desire and pursue, but rather his faithful repentance and his full restoration.
4.) Removing the counterfeit from the kingdom will come later. The angels of God will accomplish this in due season.
Learning these things will help us rightly deal with the difficulties that arise from imperfect people proclaiming a perfect message. Most definitely they will be a welcomed change worth making.