This past week I have been all aflutter with the news that the very prominent megachurch duo Joel and Victoria Osteen made some “questionable at best, blasphemous at worst” kind of remarks and, thanks to social media, are being called out on it. For whatever reason, nothing rolls my socks as much as false and fraudulent Christianity. Taking God’s word and tweaking it for our own purposes. Making it up as we go, whatever feels comfy and cozy Christianity. Yuck. So… being in agreement that things like this need to be exposed, I was happy to read the articles and blog posts. Admittedly, I kind of lost it when people commented saying things like this:
“You shouldn’t be so harsh and mean… who are we to judge?”
“I don’t think you should be attacking fellow believers this way… it’s not very Christian-like.”
“We need to just love more. He is helping people and we shouldn’t stand in the way of that.”
I never comment on big Facebook threads, but this put me over the edge. Not that I wanted to stick it to these people, because I didn’t. It’s not my argument to win or lose. God’s word is what it is and can defend itself. But I passionately desired to speak the truth in a way that would hopefully make them think about what they were saying. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to “speak the truth in love”. So I put my two cents in. Most agreed, some didn’t. It became like a giant rabbit hole, I found myself wanting to defend every point and counter-point. “If they could just understand what God’s Word REALLY says! They would never think this way!” It was exhausting because I was trying to address every single false argument some of these people put up.
Then it became clear. The TRUE gospel is inherently offensive to the world and it always will be. It isn’t politically correct. It’s super fashionable right now for people (Christians included) to embrace the “don’t judge” mentality. It sounds nice and inclusive and justifies everything, so when discernment shows up, they freak out and scream about judgment. I could (and did) speak the truth in the most loving, kind way possible and I still got chastised for “judging.” It’s truly mind boggling.
I could go on forever about the specific arguments, but I wanted to focus instead on what God revealed to me after all of this.
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
…But I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Romans 16:17-19
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that doctrine is going to be altered and people will come who twist the truth. It’s always happened in the church and it always will. I noticed the use of the word ‘simple’ twice:
1) teachers coming along and deceiving the hearts of the simple
2) a call to make ourselves simple concerning evil
They seem to be at odds. If a simple person is one who is deceived, why in the world would we want to then make ourselves simple???
So I studied it a little and learned that while we have one word (simple), the Greeks used two separate words with two separate meanings.
-The first use means “gullible or ignorant, lacking discernment.” (Bad!)
-The second means “unmixed, pure”. (Good!)
It’s here where I wish the English language (or Bible translators) would have done a better job. So, we need to become LESS gullible and MORE pure. Or as the English would have it, “less simple and more simple…”
God certainly doesn’t want us to walk in ignorance. Unless we move to a cave, we are aware of what is happening in the world and it’s a lot of evil. I believe God is saying don’t indulge in evil. This is different for different people, but for me this means I don’t need to constantly expose myself to the world and all its happenings. I can know what is going on without watching the news 24/7. I don’t have to read ALL the comments on a contentious story. I don’t even always need to get involved in it. We need to know our boundaries and our limits.
It is good to be informed and to speak truth. I got informed about something this past week that troubled my heart, and I spoke up about it. Christians need to do that. But we also must find balance. Instead of spending all our time studying the “fake”, we need to make ourselves more familiar with the “real”.
Theres a scene in the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair” where the art experts demonstrate how they determine a real Monet from a counterfeit one. They photograph the borders of the genuine painting and then frame it. Whenever a fake comes along, they compare it to the photos of the real one. So – we don’t need to spend all our time focusing on and studying the “counterfeit”. There’s just too much counterfeit out there to keep up with. If, however, we are able to recognize the genuine when we see it – God’s truth, not watered down or altered – then we are truly being “wise concerning what is good”.
It’s good to take a look at the counterfeit and call it out for what it is. What happened this week isn’t a bad thing. It makes people aware that there may be a problem. But we can’t camp out there. We can’t keep going back and forth arguing because eventually it’s going to lead down a wrong path. We have to get our focus back on the REAL thing. We can argue against things all day long, but there comes a point when we need to focus on what we are for as well.
When the dust settles, the false stuff will fall away. Whats true is what lasts. That’s where our focus needs to shift to. May we be “simple” when it comes to the discussions and distractions of this world, knowing when to speak up and when to leave it alone. May we also be “wise” in all the genuine, real things of God, knowing that the best way to counter the fake is to make ourselves totally familiar with the genuine.