“to blaspheme no one, to not bicker but be kind, and to be known for your gentleness to all men.”
The plain meaning of this verse should be clear to anyone with a grasp of the English language. There are no nuances or innuendos that run under the text, but it is as one would naturally read it — in short, be kind and pleasant to all people…period, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.
Yet, how often professing Christians acquire a name for themselves of being mean, bitter, and selfish. I have seen Christians stab each other in the back when things don’t go their way, I have seen them be petty toward one another, and I have seen them invent reasons to attack those who profess to be their brothers and sisters. I have seen them just be downright mean at times — even blaspheming each others names in public (in this context, blasphemy would be closer to what we would call slandering or “bad-mouthing” one another).
Of course, there are two simple answers behind this. First, not all professing Christians are true Christians. There are many who will enter the church upon a profession of faith, knowing the right things to say, but who don’t live it out. The tree looks like it should be bearing fruit, but it is barren. This, of course, is the reason for which God gives the responsibility of church discipline to its leadership. When those who are in membership do not live in accordance with their profession, they are called to exhort the person to Christian behavior and if that person will not live in accordance with the profession he or she made, then removal from the body is in order.
The second reason for such wickedness in the church body is that Christians — even mature ones — are sinners. And sinners do wicked things. Yet, the fact that we are sinners does not mean that those things are justified. They are sin and we should be ashamed about having done what we have done…seeking to reconcile with every fiber of our being. The fruit of a true Christian includes a desire for repentance.
So, what should we do when those who profess to be Christians get mean? Do we leave the church altogether? Sometimes one must leave a local church because sin is so pervasive within, but one must not leave the church altogether. Should one find a liberal and “open-minded” church that gladly accepts anyone without judging them? No, then you have walked away from the clear teaching of the Bible.
No, one calls the person to repentance. If they refuse to repent…well, that’s where Matthew 18:15-20 comes in — confront one to one, take one or two witnesses, go to the church). So, if there is a refusal to repent and a refusal to submit to the discipline of the church leaders, then it is clear that such people are not true Christians in the first place and one should treat them as such. But if they do repent, you have gained your brother.
And so, Paul’s counsel stands. This is that toward which we are to strive…always. Will you?