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A Mouse of a Scandal

Austin O'Malley said,"That a mouse of a scandal whisks its foolish tail across the church's floor is not sufficient for clamorous leaping out of its windows." That quote reminds me that not all church problems are equal. Sometimes a "mouse" does indeed scamper across its floors. But then sometimes it is a full-grown rat! The church we see on the pages of the New Testament was comprised of the good, the bad, and the ugly! Some congregations are commended for their faith, love, sincerity, and steadfastness, and some are urgently warned they have strayed dangerously close to a moral/doctrinal cliff and are in danger of departing from the faith. There is a blend of praise and criticism, commendation and condemnation — often both included in the same letter directed to the same congregation! Where there is faithfulness and fidelity in doctrine and deed, it is commended, but unfaithfulness to inspired teaching is rebuked with a call to repent and straighten it out. What is absent in the writing and preaching of the apostles and inspired writers of the first century is the extremism and fanaticism we sometimes see and hear in pews and pulpits and publications today. New Testament writers and preachers never advised that a "mouse of a scandal" was sufficient to send church members into a "clamorous leaping out of the windows." Even when problems were bigger (Corinth), directives and teaching were aimed at solving the problems and saving the congregation, not severing or slicing it to pieces. The truth was spoken, in love.

Jesus' message to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 reveals a church where there was good, bad, and ugly. The Lord praised the church for being a hard working, persevering, clean-living, evil-opposing, Bible believing, doctrinally sound, false-doctrine-hating church that had "tested those who say they are apostles, and have found them liars" (vs 2-3). This congregation had many good points, and Jesus commended every one of them. If we want Jesus' commendation today, members must work hard, be pure, oppose evil, seek truth, and continue in the apostles' doctrine and teaching. But there was also some bad in the church at Ephesus. In vs 4 the Lord pointed out a most serious problem: "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." We don't have space to discuss it here, but the bad in the church was so bad it was downright ugly. How bad and how ugly? Bad and ugly enough that in verse 5 the Lord threatened to "come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent." The Lord commended the good in this church. He didn't see her as all bad because there was some bad. But neither did He overlook the bad and the ugly. A mouse scampering across the floor is one thing. An infestation of gopher rats is another. We should never ignore even a mouse of a scandal in the church, doctrinally or morally. But we should recognize not all problems are equal. Our challenge is to know whether a member / congregation needs a band-aid, heart surgery, or even amputation. Is the problem "a mouse of a scandal" or a major threat to the church's health and standing with God? We must make sure our response to a mouse does not create more clamor than the mouse itself. We ought to work to get rid of a mouse, but we ought not to burn down the house to do it. Will you think and pray about it?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ