I saw an interesting correlation between the current state of the SBC and the life of King Saul while reading Major W. Ian Thomas’s classic book, The Saving Life of Christ. In the chapter entitled, The Man Who Forgot to Remember, he looks at the account of King Saul’s actions in 1 Samuel 15 when God commanded him to completely destroy Amalek. According to Saul, he did exactly as he was commanded to do, even though he spared the Amalek king and the very best of the sheep and oxen.
“Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”” (1 Samuel 15:13–14, NASB95)
As far as Saul was concerned he had been obedient because he had good intentions – sacrifice the best of the sheep and oxen to the Lord. Saul only destroyed everything he despised and deemed worthless. The problem: Samuel could hear Saul’s disobedience bleating and lowing – despite his intentions. In sparing the best of the sheep and oxen Saul had, as Ian Thomas describes, “spared all that was good in what God had totally condemned as bad! He kept the best of what God hated.” Saul’s decision not only grieved the prophet Samuel, it also made God regret making Saul king over Israel.
Amalek is a picture of our old nature, the flesh, in which Jesus says there is no profit and the apostle Paul says, “no good dwells” and describes it as a deadly enemy of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:19-20 Paul doesn’t leave much to the imagination in describing the work of the flesh, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions.”
Like Saul, we in the SBC have shown great discernment in the flesh we crucify and the flesh we spare. The SBC has rightfully taken strong stances against abortion, racism, drug addiction, homosexuality, pornography, sexual promiscuity, human trafficking, and drug addiction. We are opposed to drunkenness, although we’re still divided on alcohol in general. Yep, we’ve been exceptional in the destruction of what we despise. Can you hear the bleating and lowing?
If we’re completely honest then we have to admit that we sometimes allow what God has condemned in the flesh to somehow be used in justifying what we do for the cause of Christ. It’s foolishness to think that we can domesticate what God says must die. We cannot use what God hates to get what God wants. Yet we often approach those of an opposing view with the attitude, “I have carried out the command of the Lord.”
One would have to be completely deaf not to hear the bleating and the lowing of our enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying. I’ll admit that I have been a willing participant, a self-proclaimed expert in discerning the acceptable and unacceptable attributes of the flesh.
The Southern Baptist Convention was birthed out of the belief that God could accomplish more through the unity of like-minded churches than any one church could accomplish independently. But like the Church at Corinth, we have become divided by personalities and personal preferences that highlight our immaturity and carnality. We judge the credentials of one another’s faith based on the champion of their doctrine: Calvin or Arminius. Denying that we do so only intensifies the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen as all involved proclaim, “I have carried out the command of the Lord.”
Godly men, representing different positions, have genuinely attempted to promote peace and unity and lead us to seek godly solutions to ungodly circumstances. Unfortunately, we often end up claiming one side was not as genuine as the other and the bleating and lowing drowned out any sound of repentance that may have attempted to speak. It is the height of arrogance to expect our country to do politically what we, who claim God’s Word as absolute truth, fail to do. We expect the world to kill the very sheep and oxen we allow to live because ours is of better and more usable stock.
God tore the kingdom of Israel out of Saul’s hands that day and the prophet of the Lord was so grieved that he did not see Saul again until the day he died. I believe the Holy Spirit is greatly grieved in regard to the SBC. No, I don’t think he has torn the convention out of our hands but we sure have been ripping it away from His.