I wish that the counter-reaction from the church (referring to the people) when someone misspeaks or declares something (doctrinally/theologically) false from their mouth would more often result in loving and biblically-balanced responses.
I’m referring to preacher X wife’s recent comments that appeared to take place at their church. Yes, I referred to her as preacher X’s wife above. I would prefer to not even mention her name in the title (out of respect), but then some may not be familiar with the story. For that reason, I’ve tried to sparingly mention the name, and refrained from posting the video that went viral as well as any links to news articles written about it.
If there’s any white-sin in social media Christendom these days, it’s the sin of opportunistic, self-aggrandizing, upon the backs of those who’ve stumbled. It only took a day for my Facebook feed to be literally covered with people posting an unfortunate video of preacher X’s wife. And yes, what she had to say was wrong. Grounds for declaring it heretical? Probably, but it depends on how you define it. We too often conflate heresy with apostasy, and blasphemy. Regardless, was it completely inside-out, upside-down? Yes.
However, I have to say this. The crass response, often times, is equally out of sync. For some reason that often irks me just as much as the falsehood itself. I’ll explain further in the conclusion.
I’m trying my BEST to write shorter blogs these days! LOL. So here’s the thin of both sides currently debating over how to address this flare up.
“Stop hating on mega-church preacher X.” We’re called to love, and the world will know us by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). They love this verse, and so do I, but real “love” is never as simple as our preferred rendition according to the bible. It’s what Pastor David Pawson refers to as a sentimental view of God. It allows us to see God’s love, but turns a blind eye to his wrath.
“Preacher X is a false teacher, and he’s leading people to hell. Therefore, I’m going to tell as many people as I can in hopes of opening their eyes to his heresy.” The problem with this stance is that it so effortlessly can turn into self-pride. I know, because a little remnant of it lives in the corners of my depraved heart, and I suspect a bit of it lives in your heart too 😉 It’s exactly what initially made me laugh at the meme video of preacher X’s wife, with the funny Bill Cosby’s commentary at the end…. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!…….”
The book Jude is often upheld as the handbook on how to recognize, view, address, and handle false teachers. It’s no laughing matter! That’s exactly why the video meme of preacher X’s wife is really no laughing matter at all. The opening, and majority of the letter is written to warn of ungodly, immoral, and false teachers who’ve “wormed” their way into the church body. As a result, they’ve introduced false teaching, specifically (in this case) unrestrained grace teaching. Where God’s non-expendable grace is seen as license to sin.
Striking a proper balance for Group A:
Jude, goes on comparing these licentious ungodly people to those were unfaithful during their rescue from Egypt, those from Sodom and Gamorrah, and as animals living purely by instinct with no moral compass. The wording is harsh, and the warnings stern. The warnings are almost a carbon copy of 2 Peter 2. Texts like these tend to get under the skin of Group A described above. From their frame of reference, it doesn’t correlate well with their idea of Christ they prefer to see in the gospels. Paul’s example to Timothy of throwing out Hymenaeus and Alexander, so they might learn to not blaspheme God is unconscionable. That form of discipline and accountability just doesn’t match with the love of God they prefer to know. I know, because a corner of my depraved heart wants to paint an image of God according to my own sentiments. “God just wants me to be happy.” My own idealized version of God(Father) that I can own and befriend, where he loves me so much that he won’t ever chastise me with the rod. Yet, no loving father goes without disciplining his sons and daughters. In fact, he loves them so much that he recognizes that short-term disciplining is worth far more than the long-term pain of unchecked sin. I know and understand this so much better now as a father myself with sons. I love em’ sooooo much that pains me to see them fail, and that real form of love drives me to discipline them when it’s necessary.
Back to my point, 1 Timothy 4, is great evidence that a good shepherd warns and protects his flock from falsehood:
1 Timothy 4 New Living Translation (NLT)
Warnings against False Teachers
4 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.[a]
3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptable[b] by the word of God and prayer.
A Good Servant of Christ Jesus
6 If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters,[c] Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed.
Striking a proper balance for Group B:
If Jude is going to be the handbook for how to handle false teachers than we have to accept his full advice. This is expressly where the heresy hunting often pursued so carelessly by Group B takes a wrong turn. A typical Group B person would love the first 80% of Jude, but would equally prefer to ignore his closing remarks. Jude, lays out a proper biblical response for how to cope with these trouble-makers. Here’s the biblical remedy:
Jude 1 New Living Translation (NLT)
17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,[g] 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
22 And you must show mercy to[h] those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others,[i] but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.[j]
The biblical remedy is not mocking them with funny videos. It has nothing to do with holding up hateful signs rebuking them, writing countless blogs condemning them, and it contains no hints of slandering them in public. Speaking of slander, notice how the angel Michael (in Jude) responds to the devil over Moses’ body. Instead of slandering him he said, “The Lord rebuke you!”. That’s an incredibly compelling example! – Read Romans 12! It’s not casting denigrating stones from our towers of righteousness. It’s not declaring to the world or even our fellow brothers in Christ…… “I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)
Instead, the focus should be to continue to sharpen one another, hold each other accountable, and challenge so that we’re not “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.” (Eph 4:14-15) While being vigilant against heresy and false teaching is important, we should also be careful and mindful about how we attempt to portray and protect the truth. Jesus, the prophets, the apostles, never instructed us to broadcast the false gospel to the world.
The biblical remedy is simple. Pray for them, build yourself up in prayer by the Spirit, and show mercy to those who are fence sitters, who waiver in the faith, and are unsure. Here’s precisely where it get’s tricky and tough to strike the balance from landing squarely in Group A or B. I believe there’s a more balanced third rail that can be straddled. Don’t let the comfort of Christian pop-culture, groupthink, or bandwagoning allow us to settle into one extreme or the other. Hate (yes, I said hate! LOL) the false message that contaminates their life and those within their circle of impact, while showing mercy to them as someone God can still redeem (Jude – verse 23).