One of the characters in the book, Mr. Utterson, is a lawyer and friend of Dr. Jekyll. I found the following description of him at the beginning of the book to be quite interesting:
But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. "I incline to Cain's heresy," he used to say quaintly: "I let my brother go to the devil in his own way."
An eery portrait of modern evangelicalism? How often do we spend so much time loving both unbelievers and believers, that we neglect speaking the truth? It is our responsibility as Christians to speak the truth, in love. Either, without the other, is wrong! The modern church has become so pluralistic in many ways: you keep to your personal convictions, and I'll keep to mine. I wouldn't want to judge your choices, and please do the same for me. That's not a Biblical notion! As Christians in the body of Christ, we are to be invading each other's lives! We are to be concerned and involved in each other's pursuits, not in a Nazi-fashion, but in a loving way.
That doesn't mean we need to keep track of every movie our fellow believers see, and "confront them" about their choices at next meeting. It doesn't mean measuring the hems of dresses or judging another Christian if they don't hold to the exact educational method that you do. It's not a matter of keeping score and measuring people on a "holiness scale." It does mean showing concern, though, especially on major life choices. Letting one's brother slip down the slope to sin, while just watching and "loving him," isn't loving! Error requires correction, and as Christians we are not saved into autonomy; we are saved into a family.
The New Testament stresses principles over procedure. Haven't you ever wished that the New Testament would go into a little more detail? I'd sure like to know exactly how we are to worship God, exactly what clothing is acceptable, and exactly how we are to keep the Lord's Day. It sure would be easier, so it seems at times. We don't get the details, though, because Christianity is about the heart attitude, not about following 5000 (or 50,000) laws.
But one of the few things we do get an exact procedure for is confronting our brothers in Christ. Do you realize that? We get procedure for practically nothing in the NT - except discipline. How do we ignore it so easily then, and why do we apoligize when we question another believer about his lifestyle choices? Shouldn't we be apologizing if we don't care enough to discuss our concerns with him? Christians are a family, nor a group of individuals. We care about one another; we love one another; and we confront one another. Contrary to popular evangelical culture, it's not wrong to confront a brother in Christ if his views are anti-Biblical or his lifestyle choices are against clear teachings in scripture. In fact, it is our duty to do so.
We are majoring on "love" and ignoring "truth." We are letting our brother go to the devil in his own way.
Isn't it sad, though, how easy it is to finally get the "speak the truth" portion of the command, and then forget the "in love" part! Who hasn't been a victim of a tyrannical self-righteous Christian who feels the need to confront you on something that is extra-Biblical? Who hasn't played the part of the tyrannical self-righteous Christian at some point (admittedly guilty!)? Balance is the key. I am a very linear thinker, and it bothers me when others are not consistent. But do you know that I find that the things that usually bother me the most about others are also the problems with which I still struggle? I'm visualizing a plank here.
Then there are times when I'd just rather not discuss a touchy topic with a friend, even if I see he is in error, so I just find comfort in the "in love" part of the verse. But if something is defined as a sin, an abomination to God, or a blasphemy, then am I concerning myself more with my brother's feelings than my Saviour's feelings, if I let it roll off my back? Where does one draw the line between legalism and license, especially when relating to others? If anyone finds out, let me know, because it sure would be helpful!
John Newton had a few words of wisdom to say on the subject:
As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! 'He knows not what he does.' But you know who has made you to differ [1 Cor. 4:7]."
Thoughts, anyone? Are we letting our brother go to the devil in his own way?