I think I must be a nose in the Body of Christ--I am so readily put out of joint by things that smell not quite right. Any new book, teaching, or seminar triggers an "I wonder what's wrong with it" response as I sniff it out. I'm keen on keeping rules, following directions and keeping teaching sound. It's my God-given bent but it can so readily go awry.
I see things pretty black and white; either it's Biblical or it's not. And some stuff is just wrong and yet...God let's it go on. Ministries sail on gaining adherents. Books become best sellers. Churches become super-sized. And deceptions proliferate.
It's one thing when these are merely 'out there' and not affecting anyone I know. But sometimes they're right under my nose. And I am thrown into inner turmoil that has very little resemblance to the fruit of the Spirit! Love, joy, peace....all fly out the window. Something must be done! I want heads to roll. Ministries to fail. People to cease and desist. And yes, I want to rescue my brother/sister from lapping up that anti-freeze that tastes so deceptively sweet but will kill him by degrees!
When I find myself wanting so badly to be proven right that I am wishing disaster to come on ministries and people, something's clearly wrong. The anger of a woman seldom works the righteousness that God desires! This is a kind of 'right' that bears little resemblance to righteousness. I can be so right that I am...well, wrong! (And ineffective besides!)
I found this quote filed away for my own reminder:
"I seldom find men strenuously fighting what they are pleased to call heterodox teaching, and in bitter language denouncing false doctrine, without being more afraid for the men denouncing than for the men denounced. There is an anger against impurity which is impure. There is a zeal for orthodoxy which is most unorthodox. There is a spirit that contends for the faith which is in conflict with the faith... There have been men who have become so self-centered in a narrowness that they are pleased to designate as holding the truth, that the very principle for which they contend has been excluded from their life and service. All zeal for the Master that is not the outcome of love to Him is worthless."
-G. Campbell Morgan
Ouch! I have come face-to-face with this ugly attitude in myself of late. I saw a reflection of Jonah in the mirror today. There I was eager to see the Lord dish out judgment while I sat arms crossed smugly watching with an 'I told you so' attitude. Yuck! Could it be that my bent to know and defend truth has become a means of being sure I'm right so I can look down on those benighted souls who don't know their right hand from their left?
Am I, like Jonah, eager for God's mercy and forgiveness toward me but not so eager to see Him extend it to others?
I was in the process of writing on a different topic today when this one hit me between the eyes. So I detoured to consider some perspectives and principles from Scripture that will help keep me on track in this business of being a nose in a stinking world...
As to why deception is allowed to proliferate...
I was struck by a passage in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (It’s a must read!) explaining that one reason God allows deceptions to thrive is to test our hearts. He wants to know whether we will love Him wholeheartedly or be drawn away by alluring signs and wonders to serve other gods.
Paul also warns that it is possible to be lured into believing 'another gospel' (II Cor.11:4; Gal.1:6,7), receiving another spirit, and following another Christ. Deceptive teaching will always be with us. But we don't have to fall for it. That's another topic for another day.
For further reading consider Jesus' own warnings in Matthew 24, or Paul's in I and II Timothy and II Thessalonians and Peter's in II Peter and Jude's (in Jude of course) for starters! False teaching is countered by the simplicity of devotion to Christ. (II Cor.11:3)
When we're tempted to look for more than the hope the Gospel offers us, more than the reality of Christ living in us by His Spirit, we need to take ourselves back to Colossians and Thessalonians and be reminded of Christ's Preeminence and the hope of His coming to be 'glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.' II Thess.1:10
These will stabilize us for the long haul.
BE forewarned but AT PEACE
Peter writes a letter warning that there will be false teachers mingling with the Body secretly bringing in destructive heresies. II Peter 2:1-3 He forewarns that they will exploit with false words and many will even follow them. But his conclusion is not to call for an all out war on heresy. Instead he admonishes believers to be diligent themselves to be found in Christ, without spot or blemish, and at peace. And while he warns that some will twist Scripture to their own destruction, his advice is to 'take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.'
A focus on all the false things others are believing can draw us away from our own devotion to Jesus. Peter concludes: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity."
sometimes it's not about people serving other gods
Sometimes it’s not so much about false doctrine. We can be quick to find fault with someone who's not doing ministry our way, not following our leader or favorite teacher... Jesus' disciples got up in arms when they saw someone casting out demons in Jesus' name. They told Jesus,
"Master...we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us."
And what did Jesus say? "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you." Luke 9:49,50 That was not what they expected to hear!
Shortly afterward they were ready to call down fire from heaven on the townspeople who wouldn't let them spend the night. Jesus rebuked them. Luke 9:54,55 His agenda is so different from ours; his heart so much more merciful.
Jesus did not come to judge and condemn but to point people to God's power and willingness to save. Jn.3:16,17 Unlike me, God bears patiently those who mock and are slow to believe the truth, "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." II Pet.3:9
Love does not rejoice in evil (aha! got you now) but rejoices when the truth triumphs.
So what is my business as a nose in the Body?
What am I supposed to do in the face of falsehood? A verse that's been percolating to the top of my thinking is: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 It's nested with verses on living at peace with all men as much as possible, and leaving it to God to right wrongs, and meeting your enemies' needs!
This is God's heart for us. Otherwise we are all too easily overcome by evil, obsessed with righting wrongs or depressed by falsehoods flourishing. When we are outraged and begin to rant, we have lost peace. When we look on in helpless horror we are readily demoralized at the rise of evil. It looms large and God fades like invisible ink.
Instead we are to be people committed to doing good and so revealing God's presence in a world growing increasingly evil, and a church grown unstable and impure. We are light in darkness, not when we react viciously but when we react graciously. Faith sees beyond this moment, this horror, this onslaught of darkness and deception... Faith knows God is still in control. He will bring what is hidden into light. He will take what is wrong and make it right. Faith leaves vengeance with Him and gets about the business of spreading light. Of course part of that spreading of light is to fearlessly speak the truth in love, but it must be from a vantage point of faith in God’s ultimate control.
This mindset will only be possible as I, a snuffly nose, submit to Christ as Head of the Body and director of its every member. Every gift has its potential abuses if not directed by the Head and energized by the Spirit from a motive of love. Even in our gifts and callings we are not free to do as we please or the flesh will surely make a mess of things. It's been good to be reminded of these things. I have some hard set reactions to relearn and I'm sure I'll need to revisit these truths often. But by God's grace when I smell a rat close by I want to call it out in love, so as to build up rather than destroy.
The Point of it all
May I inject just one more passage that keeps grabbing me by the shoulders?
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom.14:4
This reminds me of the point of it all. I'm not here to clobber my brother when he's misled, or even necessarily to convince him that he's wrong. Sometimes it's a matter of opinions over which we quarrel. In these cases, Paul's words cut to the quick: "Why do you despise your brother?" (Rom.14:10) He reminds that each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Leave the final judging to Him. Instead, we're to "pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." Rom.14:19
After all, the Kingdom of God isn't a matter of the peripheral issues we argue over but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom.14:17) When we've lost these, over whatever issue, we're on the wrong track.
All these passages are restoring my balance today. Thanks for letting me share them with you. I will close with this one from Paul:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Rom.15:5-7
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Ps.19:12-14
P.S. It’s not the first time I’ve pondered these things. For further thoughts on keeping balanced in the defense of truth, see: Witch Hunts and the Glory of God.
And as always, I welcome your feedback, by email or in the Comments below.