Heresy. That’s a powerful word that’s been used to shut down religious opposition for centuries. Lately some Christian leaders have been saying that heresy is the greatest threat to the church we face today. I’ve seen loving Christians become so wrapped around the axle over it that their Facebook feeds become a poison well of anger, hatred, and division. Ironic, isn’t it?
Heresy isn’t a new phenomenon. In about 600 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. ” (Jeremiah 14:14, NAS) There are similar passages all over the Old and New Testaments. So why is it suddenly seen as the greatest threat to Christianity?
According to the apostle Paul, the greatest threat to the church is not heresy, but division. If you take a 10,000’ view of the Pauline Epistles, Paul appeared to be most concerned with two things: bringing the lost and broken into a relationship with the living God through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and unity among all those whom Christ had saved.
Were heretics found in the early church? Absolutely! Did Paul and the other apostles focus their ministry on driving these men out of the church? No. Instead, they explained the truth to their congregations and emphasized the importance of knowing the truth, clinging to the truth, and sticking together. We are not commanded to go track down heretics and bring them to justice. In fact, Ezekiel 13:8,13,14 states that this is God’s job, not ours. He will take care of it.
Two thousand years later, there are still people pitching the same nonsense in a new wrapper. But what happened to the church? Christianity has spread from Israel to the Roman Empire to all of Europe and the entire Western Hemisphere. Some of the fastest growing churches in the world are in China and the Middle East and there has been renewed interest in the past decade in bringing the Gospel to Africa. All of this despite heretics trying to lead people astray.
So what’s a Christian to do when we hear nonsense being preached? That depends. Is this coming from a friend, co-worker or family member? Then lovingly question them to find out what they believe and why. Often people can come to see the flaws in their logic when they have to defend a losing position. Know what you believe and be able to make a strong case (in love). Be able to back up your position with Scripture. Need help? Do some research or ask a knowledgeable friend or church staff member.
Debating our beliefs can be an excellent way to reach a deeper understanding of what we believe and why we believe it. Be willing to listen to their point of view. If they think you are just trying to bully them into submission, they won’t just check out of the discussion, they’ll likely check out of the friendship. Then again, what if you are wrong? Hard to imagine, I know. Pray for wisdom and that the Lord will show you the truth. You just may learn something, even if they are wrong (wholly or just in part) or have a different way of seeing things.
If the heresy you hear is not coming from someone you personally know, proceed with caution. There are many who are excellent debaters and love to destroy the faith of others. Proceed under the cover of prayer, and make sure the Holy Spirit– not your own ego– is moving you to challenge this person . If the nonsense is on T.V. or some other media, for heaven’s sake: TURN IT OFF.
Jesus gave us a great parable about this, “And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.’” (Matthew 13:3-9, NAS).
Jesus did not teach us that it was our duty to manage every teacher of the Word. It is not our job to monitor what everyone else’s church is doing to make sure it’s “as biblically sound as our church”. Our job is not to chase crows. Our job is to spread more seed. So what if we tried Paul’s suggestion and built each other up instead of picking each other apart? Outsiders may just come to know we are Christians by our LOVE. What a concept.
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