The Need to Correct Others
Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:21 CSB
Let us come now to the means which we have to employ in order to vanquish temptations. Spiritual masters prescribe a variety of means; but the most necessary, and the safest (of which only I will here speak), is to have immediate recourse to God with all humility and confidence, saying: Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me.3 This short prayer will enable us to overcome the assaults of all the devils of hell; for God is infinitely more powerful than all of them. (1)
It is quite natural, and even spiritual, to feel sorrow and heaviness when we see the professed followers of Christ walking in the ways of the world. And our first impulse may easily be to go straight to them and upbraid them indignantly.
But such methods are seldom successful. The heat in our spirit may not be from the Holy Spirit, and if it is not then it can very well do more harm than good.…
In this as in everything else Christ is our perfect example. A prayerful, face-down meditation on the life of Christ will show us how to oppose with kindness and reprove with charity. And the power of the Holy Spirit within us will enable us to follow His blessed example.
It seems that there are two ways to deal with error, especially in the church.
The first is to ignore it, well, at least ignore it while the person is in view Sometimes this can result in the frustrations being shared with those around us, initially as, “how can we help them.” But often, that turns into a form of gossip. Both refusing to deal with it, and the gossip caused by still being frustrated, is sin.
The second way is to treat them like the enemy, to attack them with the sincere intent of eradicating the false belief. The problem here is that the person’s soul or their family’s souls suffer significant collateral damage. While our desire are sincere, our methodology, to be blunt, is sinful.
Tozer is more polite when he simply says the methods are seldom successful. But he is right; such efforts can cause far more harm than good. And we fall into this temptation, especially as we engage in social media, and we are trying to
fix those with whom we don’t have a relationship.
Before we get to correct someone, we must deal with our “need” to correct others! I think De Ligouri has the way to work through the temptation, as he advises us to call out in prayer to God. After all, if we are to be those who work for reconciliation, we need to be in contact with both parties to be reconciled. We need to remember His desire to bring them into a transformation of their mind. Which means we have to remember ours does as well.
It is then, and only then, that we can conquer evil with good. That we can proceed, guided by the Holy Spirit, to work within our relationships, and approach those in error with love, a love that they will recognize.
God’s peace to all, as we care enough to take our time and remember the presence of God, as we care for those He loves.
(1) Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 450.
(2) A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).