Through a series of inexplicable providences I found myself, along with my brother, Bill, in a late night meeting of about 25 men during the 1990 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Assembled in the small room were the key leaders of the conservative resurgence. To clarify, though we both were then and remain now convinced inerrantists, neither Bill nor I were key leaders.
There had been much rejoicing throughout the day—particularly at a luncheon of conservative Sunday School Board trustees—because a new slate of freshly elected Sunday School Board (SSB, now LifeWay) trustees guaranteed the removal of Lloyd Elder, then its president. A celebratory mood marked that later meeting because gaining control of the SSB was seen as a massive step in turning the SBC ship into doctrinally healthier waters.
As the laughter and celebration continued, the late Adrian Rogers walked to the small lectern and the room fell quiet. While I don’t remember everything that he said, his first words are etched into my memory. “Brethren, the Bible says, ‘Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth’” [Proverbs 24:17, KJV]. Lloyd Elder and these other men are our brothers, not our enemies. We should not be rejoicing like this. It is not right.”
You could have heard a pin drop as a heavy silence fell on the room. Men bowed their heads in conviction, receiving Rogers’ well-timed and much-needed rebuke. After briefly reaffirming the importance of the battle for the Bible that was then in its twelfth year, he underscored the sinfulness in taking pleasure over the removal of the so-called moderates from positions of leadership in the convention.
My respect for Dr. Rogers grew exponentially that night. And I learned a valuable lesson. The seeds of hypocrisy lie waiting to spring to life in every Christian’s heart. It is much easier to hold other people accountable to biblical standards than it is to pursue them consistently in our own lives. As the Puritan John Flavel put it, “It is easier to declaim like an orator against a thousand sins in others than to mortify one sin in ourselves.”
May the Lord help all of us who profess to love His Word and honor its authority in our lives, to heed this admonition. And may we remember that the sins we have committed against God which necessitated the death of His Son on the cross are far greater than any that have been committed against us. Finally, may we never forget this command of the inerrant Scriptures: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).