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Associate Editorial: The Gored Ox

The old saying goes that “it all depends on whose ox is being gored.” Old sayings usually have a very strong element of truth in them as do the tales of the old wives. (How many of us preacher types could get along without the old wives?)

The gored ox problem is the problem of tolerance. We love to hear sin condemned from the pulpit, as long as our ox is not being gored, meaning that our sin is not being condemned. The employment status of many preachers, including this author, has changed when we have gored the wrong ox. (Wrong as it relates to the possessor of an ox, not wrong as in the eternal Judge of the universe). I personally have never owned an ox, nor do I desire one. It might end up being gored, and I might have to change my position on sin, God forbid, since my current position is that revealed by the Psalmist, Psalm 119:104, “Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.” And Psalm 119:128, “Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.”

David, that psalmist quoted in the previous paragraph, had an ox. He was an adulterer. He was a murderer. When Nathan, his closest and dearest friend, told him about his sin in parable form, David was all ready to condemn the man in the parable. “Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.’ Nathan then said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul”‘” (2 Samuel 12:5-7)(NASB). Did Nathan tell David something he did not already know? Was David not fully aware of the fact that he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and sent her husband to battle to be killed to cover up his own sin? Nathan did not reveal any new facts. He simply made the application.

In recent times, I must confess that I have gored an ox or two. I was a signer of the infamous letter which exposed the false teaching which was being done and supported by the administration of Florida College. I even wrote an article which appeared in this journal expressing my views, based on personal evidence I might add, as to why that academic institution has chosen to follow the course it is now following. Several men, some near and dear friends, chastised me for taking on that ox in such a manner. The evidence notwithstanding, their view was that I had no right to gore their favorite ox.

In 2002, I gored the ox of men who were prominent in the local church of which I was a member and to which I was a servant in the preaching of the gospel. Those prominent men were once avid supporters of my preaching the truth. When men who would pervert the gospel on issues that would endanger the church sought an audience, no audience was allowed. The truth was upheld. False teachers were renounced, and God’s word and only God’s word was allowed to be preached. Then, without such specific intention, I gored the ox of those prominent men. I preached against a sin they were committing. I was dismissed, they were vindicated in the eyes of the local church, and a new servant will soon have his chance to see if he can preach the whole counsel of God without goring any oxen and losing his job. Something is wrong with this picture.

I still love David. What a man! I do not praise him in his sin, nor did God. David, however, did not dismiss Nathan, when Nathan delivered that ox slaying stroke, “you are the man!” David went to God in confession and repentance. He went to God with remorse for his sin. He accepted God’s punishment, the death of the bastard child. Was it easy for Nathan to gore David’s ox? Only love for truth and love for God and love for David could have motivated Nathan to approach his dear friend, risking that relationship. We learn from that, however, that no personal relationship on earth is worth a man’s soul. David, as king, could have had Nathan killed just as he had Uriah. Nathan did not care. He had to follow the course of truth and love.

Dear Christian friend and brother, when you are faced with the option of ignoring the sin of one you love or goring the ox of that loved one, pull out your sword (Ephesians 6:17) and gore that awesome beast. You may suffer the loss of friends. Maybe so, and maybe not. You will for certain maintain the love of He who is your eternal Friend, our Lord, our King, Jesus Christ.

In case you may wonder about the sin which I condemned in the lives of the prominent men, it all had to do with justifying a practice based on book, chapter, and verse biblical authority. Is that such a terrible thing? Maybe it is for some, but since a warm summer’s night in Houston, Texas, when James Wilson plunged my adolescent body under the water for the remission of my sins, the only authority I have ever known comes from God’s word. I have selfishly forgotten that authority at times and sinned often (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). I would, however, never say that such selfishness is all right with God. We have no need for the oxen of sin. Let them all be gored. Let them all die. Let personal relationships never stand in the way of our standing up for what is right. May our voices be heard over all the clutter and clamor for tolerance. When it gets down to it, the voices of compromise will tolerate anything but that which condemns their unauthorized tolerance of sin.

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Hebrews 12:4-17) (NASB)

Whether it be a bowl of beans, a large endowment, or a dear and beloved friend, nothing is worth the loss of our souls. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:36-38) (NASB)

It does not depend on whose ox is being gored, it all depends on how much we love the Lord who shed His precious blood for the salvation of my soul and your soul. He who has an ear, let him hear.