During my devotional reading this morning I was once more struck by an instruction found in the Mosaic Law, Deuteronomy 22.1-3:
1 Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.
2 And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.
3 In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother's, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.
The principle is somewhat more succinctly stated in Exodus 23.4-5:
4 If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Please recognize no solicitation from me for either explicit or implicit adherence to the Mosaic Law, but rather a principle of ethics and courtesy that reflects the timeless principle of loving one's neighbor as oneself. Sad to say, such ethical practices are virtually unknown who serve as pastors of churches these days, even as we like to say as fundamental Baptists in churches of like faith and practice. I am not sure I have ever been on the receiving end of a phone call or written message inquiring about a member of the church's flock that had wandered into another IFB's pasture. Sad.
On the other hand, on those rare occasions when someone from nearby has wandered into one of our services I have herded them back to where they ought to have been as well as placed a phone call the very next day to the pastor of the church.
Can we do less and consider ourselves ethical? Or has the gospel ministry itself strayed so far afield that church members are no longer consider sheep of the flock, pastors no longer look at themselves as under shepherds, and attendance and membership no longer truly reflect spiritual realities but rather success in a scheming game of cleverness and salesmanship?