Jesus frequently had to deal with several divergent, religious sects, which had emerged within Judaism before His arrival. The groups had specific names, such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, and Zealots. Most of them had their own interpretation of the Scriptures and how it affected them, especially politically. None of them exhibited the true heart of righteousness that God desires within man, according to Jesus (Matthew 15:7-9; Luke 11:37-54). Some of the groups also played the role of religious “police” among the Jewish community (Matthew 21:23-27), operating under the authority of the Sanhedrine (John 11:47). At times, this “policing” characteristic was enacted in conjunction with the formal, temple guard (Matthew 27:65; Acts 4:1), and sometimes, apart from them. These religious police were often found to be complete hypocrites (Matthew 23:4). In the end, it would be those “police,” the members of those religious sects, that ultimately, were instrumental in killing the Son of God.
Regrettably, there are brethren in the church today that like to function as a type of “Brotherhood Police.” While there exist various groups within the Lord’s church who may interpret the Scriptures differently than others, the “Brotherhood Police” take things a step further. Their basic modus operandi is to scour out any blatant transgressors of tradition or perpetrators of feigned piety from among the brotherhood. These are those individuals (sometimes whole congregations), that take it upon themselves to deeply scrutinize otherwise autonomous congregations and individuals, outside of their own congregation. They often surmise whether or not a congregation or individual is worthy of extended fellowship, should be marked as a false teacher, and/or is apostatizing from the faith in some fashion, or another. Then, they also take it upon themselves to publicize their findings in different brotherhood media, like periodicals and blogs, or by spreading rumors around.
One time, I sat down with one of our brethren, who frequently displayed this policeman characteristic, and simply requested they explain one thing to me, “What is the purpose of the church?” Their response was revealing. “To debate thy cause! To protect the Truth!” was the answer. My distressed response was, “No, brother. That is only one aspectof the work of the church, but it is not her purpose. Her purpose on this earth is to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:10;
It is truly disheartening to read about spiritually inclined men acting the way they did in the first century. It is just as disheartening to see spiritually inclined men acting that way today. Well would we do to remember the parable of Jesus, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Let us never draw lines of fellowship in places where God hasn’t drawn any Himself. Remember also, one of the things God hates is, “One who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19). While we should certainly mark false teachers and practice church discipline, we simply don’t have the Biblical authority (or, “jurisdiction”) to go outside of the boundaries of our own, autonomous congregation in order to “police” the actions of others. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the peace officers.” He said, “Blessed are the peace makers. For they shall be named sons of God,” (Matthew 5:9). – TS