Correcting or Bullying?

As many of you know, I am currently writing a book about failed leadership in the church. It has two parts. The first is for the individual and the second is for the leaders in the church. The book guides the reader through the Bible so they can work through the ramifications of the failed leadership and make decisions.

Of course, the research for this book requires keeping up with current instances of failed leadership. I won’t go into what defines failed leadership (check out my book for that). However, studying these cases has kept me in the social media “know” of what is going on with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), following the scandal reported on by the Houston Chronicle.

Of course, everything the SBC is doing regarding sexual abuse is being overshadowed by this controversy surrounding Beth Moore and the role of women: whether or not women should preach, hold the position of pastor/elder, etc. etc.. Before I continue with the topic at hand, let me say very clearly that I do not hold to either side of the Beth Moore/women debate. I see the reasoning of both sides and both sides have scripture backing them up.

I am currently unable to research and do all the necessary reading to come to a conclusion. I’ve asked a few trusted people on both sides of the issue and their reasonings seem sound at first blush. I find it best not to box God in. I am not being called to be a pastor. However, who am I to say whether or not someone else is?

So, until God convicts me otherwise, I will apply the same requirements to all teachers and preachers of God’s word, men and women: I test it against the scriptures.

I may find that later on, I take a side on this issue. But for now, that is not my focus. I am focused on what God is asking me to do and how to accomplish it.

Now, throughout this fiasco about women, I started following Wade Burleson. I first found him when my pastor recommended I read Burleson’s article after I had approached him regarding the women’s issue. (You can go here to read Wade Burleson’s opinion). Recently, he wrote a blog article about what the “no women” side is saying. Wade Burleson believes a woman can hold the position of pastor, however he went to the conference that upheld the idea that women cannot in order to better understand their position and to defend his.

In his response to some things he learned, he made this statement.

the Founders men don’t think that the negative things they say about gifted Christian women like Beth Moore preaching, teaching, and giving spiritual encouragement to men and women is ‘bullying.’ They believe they are ‘correcting’ the serious error of a woman ‘imitating the authority of man.’

Wade Burleson

That very specific quote is what I am here to talk about. Earlier in this “debate” Wade Burleson called out several leaders/pastors in the SBC for bullying Beth Moore on social media. They, in return, of course disagreed with him. When he went to their conference, he confronted some of them and they talked about the bullying issue. These conversations are what led to his statement above.

What I am pretty incensed about is the fact that bullying is couched under the guise of Biblical correcting. As I watch the social media storm over this issue, I see this on both sides. To try and explain the other side, Wade Burleson was commenting on what the Founders had said to him, as they were hurt by his bullying comments. However, there were plenty of people on the other side who were making bullying remarks as well. I was watching it all over Twitter by those in leadership and those who are not.

I am here to tell you this, no matter what side of the debate you are on, if you are calling out, correcting, or any other synonym of this action, another person and it is in a public scenario, you are bullying. Plain and simple. You are using the power of public opinion to make your point and make you seem like the hero.

That is what I am on here to discuss. When are we correcting (Biblically) and when are we bullying? In today’s technology age, there is often a very thin line between the two.

The definition of bullying is this:

“abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.”

“prone to or characterized by overbearing mistreatment and domination of others”

Merriam Webster

Social Bullying gets even more specific:

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:

Leaving someone out on purpose
Telling other children not to be friends with someone
Spreading rumors about someone
Embarrassing someone in public

Note the phrase “embarrassing someone in public.” Make no mistake that whether it was intended to or not, public “correction” is embarrassing.

I am going to go even a little further here and explain why the correction responses seen on social media by fellow Christians are un-Biblical.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Galatians 6:1-5

Where is the gentleness in a public rebuke?

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:15-20

If someone truly thinks that they are “correcting” someone who is in sin, then that correction should not be in public. Even if you make it all the way to the step of telling it to the church, the church is not the public. The church is comprised of believers. Social media is not solely a platform of believers. It is full of everyone and every religion.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

Again, the gentleness thing. God made sure it was repeated. If you are ganged up on in person or in social media, do you feel like you were treated with gentleness? My thought is, no, you don’t.

Why are we gentle? Because it can lead to repentance. The goal we are all shooting for if we are on God’s team, right? So if you really think that someone is committing some sin, gentleness is the way to go in correcting. Not public rebuke.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others

Philippians 2:3-4

First, before you go “correcting” someone, make sure your motives are pure. Assuming they are, you are to look at the interest of others. Is publicly rebuking and embarrassing someone looking after their interest?

In case you are confused, the answer is no. Causing someone public embarrassment, or feuding with them on social media, is not in their best interest. It puts them in a position of defense, can cause them to lose relationships, and could even effect their job/income.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

So in case we don’t get the gentleness thing, we need to act in love. Acting in love will ensure gentleness. So what is the Bible saying? Without love, all your actions are for naught.

Love is patient and kind. Social media correction is not kind (nor Biblical). It isn’t arrogant or rude (again, back to motive). You can see for yourself what love is through that whole passage. The Bible is pretty clear. I don’t really need to explain it to you.

Many may be saying, “Beth Moore is a public figure, therefore, any correction needs to public in order to set the record straight and keep any others from going down that road,” or “they defamed Beth Moore’s character, so I must defend her in order to publicly set the record straight.”

Well, I don’t see anything in the Bible that says “if done in public, rebuke in public.” At worst, the issue is brought before the church and if no repentance is had, then the person is cast out as if they were an unbeliever.

Nowhere does it say to go make a public statement in order to find all the people that were misled and fix the problem. All disagreements within the church are to remain in the church (barring things that are criminal and are required to be reported – see my upcoming book for the distinctions).

So whether or not they thought they were bullying or correcting, the fact of the matter is that they were bullying and they were incorrectly correcting.

I want to make it clear that there were plenty on both sides of this issue. Bullying was done all around. However, that just proves the point, doesn’t it? Correction done incorrectly only produces more hurt and, sometimes, more sin.

What did it accomplish? It accomplished a lot of hurt, it strained relationships, it showed an angry back-biting church instead of the love of Christ to the world, and it took the focus off of a very important topic (sexual abuse).

So instead of the world seeing a group of Christians coming together to deal with its past sins and working toward a better future where victims are healed and restored instead of pushed aside and ignored, the world saw us, once again, fighting over issues that have nothing to do with salvation or the love of Christ.