The Lord has been using Amy Carmichael: Beauty For Ashes to reveal my pride and self-centeredness. He's also been showing me how often I focus on the trivial. For Amy, trying to rescue and minister to as many children as possible in India, "[t]hree things mattered: the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the power of God to deal with His enemy, and loyalty to one another." (p. 88) These were her requirements for those who would partner in ministry with her. She stood firm upon the Word and solid doctrine, but those were the only issues that divided her from others in ministry. When she parted ways with some co-laborers who did not believe in the total inerrancy of Scripture, she did so privately and remained quiet about it.
Of course, Amy Carmichael didn't have the technology of today. No world-wide audience at her fingertips. (Her books were published only because her mother championed them in Amy's native England.) No up-to-the second news feeds. She wasn't concerned with site hits or the number of people who liked her latest pithy tweet. She was too busy working long, hard days for the sake of the Gospel and the broken children she had rescued from temple slavery and prostitution.
Amy Carmichael had an effective Biblical ministry, which Paul Tripp defines well:
...truly effective ministry of the Word must confront our self-focus and self-absorption at its roots, opening us up to the vastness of a God-defined, God-centered world. Unless this happens, we will use the promises, principles, and commands of the Word to serve the thing we really love: ourselves. This may be why many people read and hear God's Word regularly while their lives remain unchanged. Only when the rain of the Word penetrates the roots of the problem does lasting change occur.His words unwrap my sin and lay it bare before my blinded eyes. I have wielded the Word of God has a sword against the wrong enemy: the people around me. When I first came to Reformed theology nearly a decade ago, I jumped in feet first and then proceeded to stomp on those who didn't agree with me. Publicly, via social media. Privately, with friends. Alone, in my own thoughts. I have used the Word to serve myself, to make myself feel superior, to call attention to myself. I have been running for the prize of being right, instead of the true prize Paul exhorts us to pursue (1 Cor. 9:24-25).
(Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, p. 24-25)
I know I am not alone. There are weekly - sometimes daily - internet debates that bear out this truth. At times it seems as if believers are intent on throwing each other into the lion's den. We're not satisfied until we've caused a feeding frenzy. I fear we've become defined by issues, rather than Scripture. Even if we're not the ones hurling the stones, we stand by like Saul and nod our approval (Acts 8:1).
The Lord has opened my eyes to the hurt inflicted by my misguided zeal. I've wounded others as well as myself, damaged my personal ministry and wept many bitter tears in recent years. Thankfully the Lord's grace is greater than my sin and is powerful enough to soften even this hardest of hearts.
As I continue to think about Gospel living and loving others, I find great encouragement from Amy Carmichael: "Let nothing be said about anyone unless it passes through the three sieves: Is it true? kind? necessary?" (p. 58). These are three questions worth asking before I speak, write or think about someone, or to them.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.