The article “Jindal defends those who want Obama to fail” on CNN’s website got me to thinking. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana commented, “It’s OK for Republicans to want President Obama to fail if they think he’s jeopardizing the country…My answer to the question is very simple: ‘Do you want the president to fail?’ It depends on what he is trying to do.”
This isn’t a political post. Jindal’s comments gave me pause and caused me to reflect on the church. Is it right to want some churches to fail, or some movements within the church to fail? I think the answer is yes. As Jindal said, if certain churches or movements are jeopardizing individual’s soul’s, radically compromises the integrity of the church universal, bring disrepute to Christ, then I think it incumbent upon me to wish for, even pray for, their failure.
To me, that makes sense. Yet, I don’t feel like I like it. If you know me, head almost always wins over heart…and it does on this issue as well. (Lynn asked me a while ago if, as a pastor, it bothers me when people leave our church/ministry to go to another. My answer, not if it’s a good church/ministry. It tears me up to see people go to places where Christ isn’t proclaimed (sometimes even denied) and Scripture isn’t upheld.)
The above needs to come with a whole bunch of caveats though (and I’m open to correction on this). First caveat is that I’m not at all thinking of churches or movements with which we might have minor doctrinal differences (issues like baptism, reformed theology, charismatic, etc.) or minor methodological/praxis differences (exclusive psalm singing, purpose driven, seeker sensitive, etc.). What I am thinking of is churches/movements that are totally unfaithful to Scripture, apostate, heretical, immoral, etc.
Second caveat, I don’t always get it right. Some churches/movements might not be as bad as I think. Others may be worse. I need to be very careful here, and seek the guidance of Scripture and of the Spirit.
Third, no church or movement has it all together. Not ECC, not the PCA, and certainly not me as an individual. We are all a mixed bag of sin and grace produced holiness. We are saints and sinners. The visible church will always be, at least this side of Christ’s return, a mixed bag of regenerate saints and and unregenerate sinners. Thus, the visible church is constantly in need or reforming (semper reformandum). This I think should be our initial prayer for every church/movement. First we ask God to do a work in the church, asking him to bring them back to himself and to the truth of the Word, that he would grant repentance.
That being said, I still think there is a time when we pray, humbly with fear and trembling, God, remove their lamp stand. This, to me, seems consistent with the spirit of Revelation 2-3 (a couple of chapters I hope to write extensively on in the next couple of years). God is concerned with people, so will not tolerate churches that misdirect people to the detriment of the souls. He is concerned with his glory and reputation, so he will not tolerate churches that tarnish it. It seems to me that those concerns should fill his people also.
6 thoughts on “Should we wish for/Pray for the failure of some?”
I’m pretty much in agreement with you here, and am glad you wrote about this topic.
I agree that we should not presume to pray against others who have “minor doctrinal differences,” etc. Indeed, it’s always dangerous for us to presume to know God’s will in these matters. I wonder then, if it’s proper for us to pray specifically for something to fail, or if we should instead pray simply that God’s will would be done; at the very least, we should always pray with this caveat.
After all, there may be purpose in allowing something that seems evil or wrong to flourish, or in causing something that seems good to fail. Only God knows.
I think these thoughts are really good — kind of a lot to think about!
But, I’d like to push it in the other direction and say — if we are concerned about the failure of “others” are we then in turn concerned primarily about our own “success”?? If so, what do we think is successful?
Does that make sense? I think I agree I don’t want people drawn in by heresy …. but if my concern for that warps itself into (and YES I think it has in the Evangelical Church) a drive to “win people” to my side …. is that any better than just in essence not really worrying about success/failure and just trusting the Spirit??
Excellent post. Very thought provoking.
This is a tricky subject, and I think you did a good job with it, Dan.
I think it’s easier to accept the idea of hoping for the failure of a certain venture when that venture is political rather than religious. Frankly, there’s a lot less at stake when it comes to politics.
Up to a point it’s inevitable that we consider our own positions better than those of people we disagree with. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t make sense for us to hold that position. Regarding Christianity, ultimately it comes down to humility and love for others in the church. I think it’s possible (indeed, loving) to hope that heresies fail and their adherents repent. It’s no so much a question of “my side” versus “their side” as it is obedience to God. A right understanding means that insofar as either of deviate from what God intends for us to do and be, we both need to change course.
Thank you guys for your thoughts. You’ve made me want to add more caveats.
Tim, I think your point is valid: God may will heresy or immorality to flourish for a time (until it reaches its full measure). We should recognize that and be willing to submit to God’s will in that. Yet I don’t think that should keep us from praying at all for the failure of some churches/ movements. After all, that’s true of all things. It might not be God’s will to heal someone, yet we are told to pray for it. It might not be part of God’s will to ease a financial hardship someone is facing, yet we pray for it. I think it is a good reminder though that God’s will is beyond us to comprehend sometimes – his ways are inscrutable.
SEG, you are absolutely right to sound this warning. We are always a cauldron of mixed motives. Dissecting our true motives is never easy – do we want others to fail so we can succeed. Honestly, that probably plays into it. Yet, there is in God’s people at least some right love for others and his glory that should, I believe, lead us to pray for the failure of those churches/movements that threaten or tarnish them. I also take to heart your warning about Evangelicalism. We must recognize that there are many godly churches and movements outside the tent of evangelicalism. We MUST not associate God’s side with our narrow swath of the global/historical church.
Finally, I think we should recognize that in hoping a movement fails we don’t wish ill to those who follow it. For example, I hope and pray the grotesque Health and Wealth gospel of the American church dies quickly. I can do so without praying for evil to fall upon it’s proponents.
Good stuff Waugh.
1. I’m simple, this you know, and see scripture in the same way. Right and Wrong. The hard part is to read and understand with GRACE in mind. Bottom line: stand for what you believe in and think before you act.
2. I love your big little words.
“Caveat” If I see another caveat we’ll have to talk. In person.
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