When in hearing the Word preached, and sins reproved in the congregation, some hearers misapply the same. As for example, the minister reproves the sin of swearing, of drunkenness, or any such sin; then someone guilty thereof, does not only surmise, but also breaks forth into this speech: Now the preacher means me; he speaks this of me; he censures my facts and speeches. Hereupon follow spite and malice against the person of the minister, and also rash censuring and condemning of his ministry. [From an unknown Puritan minister of long ago]
A friend sent me this quotation recently. They did so because all of us here in this church have seen this very thing played out many times over the years. We have been hated by the wicked because the preaching of God’s Word exposed their evil.
The wicked, and perhaps even especially domestic abusers pretending to be holy Christians, hate any kind of exposure and they stand ready to punish any hint of light shining on who they really are and what they are really doing.
Now, unfortunately in our day this does not happen enough in the churches. That is to say, evil is not being exposed. In fact who are so often condemned from the pulpit openly or by subtle inuendo, are the victims of evildoers. They end up wearing guilt that is not theirs. Lots of “light” shining on them, but the evildoer continues to enjoy secrecy and darkness.
But back to the quote above. Why would anyone respond to the preaching of God’s Word in truth by getting angry and accusing the preacher of “talking about them”? There really is only one reason – because they are guilty of it!! But instead of repenting, they throw it back on anyone who would dare expose them. “He has no right to speak publicly about me in this way!” In many cases of domestic abuse, victims will report to me that their abuser has frequently moved the family from one church to another anytime there is any kind of threat of exposure. We had one man, a wicked man, sell his house virtually overnight and make his wife move with him 2,000 miles away after I talked to him privately about sin we had observed in him. I have no doubt that he was an abuser of his wife, yet you never saw anyone work harder at playing the holy saint charade. But he was gone! He knew the light was shining and later he sent me an angry letter demanding that I never talk to anyone about him [I had contacted one of his previous pastors in another state and of course, as regularly happens among pastors because most of them lack wisdom and ethics, that pastor immediately told the fellow that I had called].
But you see how the thing works in the kingdom of darkness. Evil is never to be exposed. The wicked demand secrecy and will make all kinds of accusations against anyone to brings their evil out into the light. Sermons are to remain so impersonal that no one is ever threatened with exposure. Talk all you want about the intricacies of various doctrines, about the details of theology in history, about the nuances of a Greek verb, but don’t ever apply God’s Word in such a way that the wicked cannot squirm out of the light.
I say make them squirm. That’s what God’s Word does.
Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (13) And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.