The saying, "Hindsight is always twenty-twenty," is a familiar one. It implies that when we look back over our past we can see what should have been done, in contrast to what was done. Given the opportunity of turning back the clock we would do things differently.
In light of the terroristic attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon we can now look back and say we made some mistakes. We allowed people into this country about whom we had very little knowledge. We opened our doors to the very people who ultimately attacked us and caused such destruction and grief.
Does this mean that the United States should close its borders, if it could. No, it means that the nation needs to be more careful who it allows in, and to hold those who do come in accountable, meaning they should be monitored for their behavior and activities. It also means that any behavior that is potentially harmful to the nation would be cause for conern and perhaps deportation.
This is a great lesson for the local church. Opening its doors to everyone and anyone may well allow those in who will ultimately lead to its destruction. It is not uncommon for people to simply "slide into" the assembly, with little or no knowledge of them. It was the apostle Paul who warned the Ephesian elders of those who would attack from without and from within. (Acts 20:29–30)
Am I advocating closing the doors and allowing no one in, of course not; however; I am saying that we should know those we receive into fellowship. If we do not know them, then we should receive a report from those who do. Letters were a common method of doing this in the early church. (Rom. 16:1) Today we have telephones, fax machines, and other means, in addition to the written letter to receive such information.
The Church has also been lax on discipline in recent decades. Its concern for growth and its image has led many local churches to overlook sin and fail to carry out the difficult and painful task of discipline. This too can lead to tragedy as noted by Paul when he said, "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." (Gal. 5:9)
May we be alert to who we receive into our local fellowships, while holding open arms to those of like precious faith who are walking in accordance with the Word. May we guard the assembly and the saints from those who may be destructive and avoid the pain of hindsight.