The 5 things that I have been slammed for the most...
My wife and I love doing what we do. We count it a privilege to be running the ministry we run but one thing we have realised on more than one occasion is - you can't please everyone. No matter what you believe you are going to have those who disagree... I have learnt to value disagreement. It's healthy and beneficial when done well. When disagreement moves to opposition it starts to get a little weird and distorted. When we oppose a person rather than disagree with a belief system or opinion then things start to get hurtful, wrong, and just straight unbiblical.
This week I thought I would share some of the things that we have been slammed for the most in our journey so far. These are the things that other Christians (not unbelievers) have verbally cut or burnt us over. It usually doesn't bother us and there are certain areas which are outlined below where we know we are going to get a certain amount of "kick-back" when we voice anything on that topic. We usually have a good laugh over these stories and carry on. But the thing that hurts is seeing Christians choose to slaughter something as precious and beautiful as unity over something as insignificant as agreement. Before I get into the 5 things that we have been slammed for the most let me share a couple of thoughts...
I don't believe truth needs a defence. I believe truth is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. Truth is immovable and unshakable. When it comes to theology many Christians seem to live in a "kill or be killed" type of way. By this I mean, we feel a need to shoot down and kill any other belief system before it has even had a chance to be heard. There has been so much fear of wrong theology that many are now responding to fear, rather than responding to love. If what you believe is true it doesn't not need to be militantly defended by attacking others. It will stand firmly and will not be moved.
There have been a few things that we have experienced furious opposition towards over the years. When I see a belief system that allows for the cutting down and attacking of others I begin to question the validity of that belief system. Truth does not feel this need. Truth is secure, and ultimately truth is love so it is patient, kind, slow to anger, is not jealous, or arrogant and it doesn't seek its own. And perhaps one of the greatest things we need to realise is that it is not provoked.
Why? Because whatever we say in response to fear, ultimately it has been provoked and controlled by fear. When we respond to love, it's then that we are operating in truth. Truth is not provoked by untruths because truth is completely secure.
We have experienced opposition and have encountered fierce retaliation against a bunch of different things. But I have noticed over the years that there seems to be a few beliefs that we get cut for more than others. Here's the top five things that we have been slammed for over the years;
1 - Love. At the top of the list is love. For some weird reason many Christians still have real problem with us showing unconditional love towards sinners. It seems that loving these people is only appropriate if we are trying to change them in some way. It's amazing to me that Jesus never tried to change anybody. He just loved in such an awesome way that people wanted to change themselves.
2 - Miracles, Signs & Wonders. We have the privilege of seeing God do awesome miracles everywhere we go. Apparently believing God for miracles is "dangerous" and "unhealthy." I guess no one told Jesus that when He sent His followers out to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, and raise the dead. I have yet to see someone who has received a miracle say that they feel "less in love with God because of it." I find it funny that people get angry about this and treat us as if we are the ones who do them... I feel like saying the famous catch line of every criminal caught in the act when we see miracles happen - "It wasn't me!"
3 - Freedom. Like love, freedom sounds nice but is really uncomfortable when it's a reality. Why? Because freedom is not afraid of a persons greatness or their mess. Freedom is happy to walk with them through both. We intentionally create a culture of freedom where people can be fully them and, it turns out, some people don't like seeing others encounter this kind of freedom. They look and sound silly. They are unpredictable and weird. And apparently the Holy Spirit is a gentleman that doesn't operate in a foolish way... REEEEEALLY!!?!?! The first time we see the Holy Spirit take stage in the story of the New Testament is in Acts where 120 people are drawing all kinds of attention to themselves because they appear to be drunk in the morning. I don't know if you have ever tried controlling drunk people but it's not easy... It's much easier to just prevent them from ever getting like that in the first place... Selah. Freedom wages war on control, and for many people freedom is too scary and too unpredictable to trust. So settling for the illusion of control seems safer but we have found it to be hollow.
Uzah (meaning "mans strength") tried to stop the Lord from looking silly by catching the Ark of the covenant when it nearly fell... That didn't work out so well for him (If you don't know the story, spoiler alert! He dies...) The one people group that Jesus violently rebuked were those that stole the freedom that He and His Father desired for people. The one thing that irritated Him more than anything else was seeing people trying to control other people. That religious spirit that was around in His day still rears its ugly head today. It's goal is to cause us to buy into the shadow of control.
If we fail to trust people with freedom and treat them like babies we will only ever produce babies. When we create "safety measures" to try and prevent people from failure or mess we are actually creating the very things that prevent the Spirit of God from moving in us, on us, and all around us. How did Jesus steward His culture of freedom? He simply lived in such a way where others actually wanted to live like Him. He didn't need "prevention measures" in place because His life was so attractive. He didn't need to control people because He just lived in way that people actually wanted to imitate. I propose that we only feel a need to control others when we are afraid of trusting them OR of trusting ourselves. Love always seeks to trust...
4 - Eschatology. This is a funny one. Funny because I have found that those who fiercely slam us in this area don't actually care what we do believe they just can't get over the fact that we are not futurists. I.e. That I don't believe the world is heading down the drain, I don't believe the antichrist is coming, and I don't believe that the church will be raptured before, during, or after some future tribulation of 7 years. I have found this futurist view to be one that is perhaps most violently defended which causes me to wonder what it is that this belief system is afraid of.
I have seen that many who hold to this belief system are worried that if we take it away there will be no motivation to pray or evangelise etc. This is a great example of responding to fear. Jesus was not motivated by a coming great tragedy or impending doom. He was motivated by one thing and one thing only - the Love of the Father. His mission was to serve others into a connection with the Father. I have found this belief system to be one of the sacred cows that many will not let you get close to. This is also one of the most unbiblical and historically inaccurate sacred cows we have on the "Church farm" at the moment. Not all those who hold to a futurist belief system are so militant about it but, unfortunately, we have to be honest and say that our experience has been that many are.
5 - Zionism (or the belief that Israel is at the centre of everything). The fact that I don't buy into this causes many Christians to look at you like your the devil himself. Again, people seem really adamant to crucify those who don't agree without listening to the reasons why. Apparently I am deceived when I actually believe what Paul write in Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile...You are all one in Jesus Christ." There is such clear biblical foundation right throughout the New Testament for what Paul is saying here that I could go on and on BUT in the current church climate it is actually unsafe to voice any opinions about this whatsoever. Fear rises it's ugly head and instantly slams you with hurtful labels like "Jew hater" or "anti-semitic." You will be thrown into the box of "replacement theology" and will be called dangerous and unsafe. Without being heard you will be hated. This is another great way fear has succeeded... It sells the lie that we can't even listen to each other because they are too "dangerous." Religious fear is so afraid of sin that it will even push away truth that it is unfamiliar with. Again, this is definitely not a fruit of the Father who IS love. And again, the violent protection of this belief system is fear based. To see any other view requires that we take off the lenses of fear for a few minutes.
I am aware as I write this that I'll probably get slammed all the more for these few things. That's ok, we'll have a laugh and carry on. But my point is not to get people to agree with me, my point is to show a great weakness that we have had for many years in the body of Christ. It's a lie that says, "we have to agree to walk together." This lie says, "when someone disagrees with you they are attacking you. You need to deal the first blow and get in before they do." This lie also manifests in the form of different labels like "they are dangerous" or "they are unsafe." Just look at what we as Christians have done to the likes of Rob Bell or John Crowder or Joel Osteen. These are just three of dozens and dozens of men and woman who have been hated in the name of love. Whether you agree with these people or not is irrelevant... But whether you love them or not is everything. I have never met Rob Bell but man have I been warned about him. I have had people tell me how dangerous and deceived he is. They have run him down to be the worst piece of dirt imaginable... The moment you feel the need to discredit someone like this you know that the problem is not with them but it is in-fact with you. (Now I'm probably going to get slammed for mentioning Rob Bell... Haha)
One of the signs of maturity within the body is unity. Unity is not agreement. Unity is choosing love and honour above agreement. Unity realises that when someone disagrees with me they are not attacking me as a person they are simply disagreeing with a view that is separate from me. This lie of agreement and this partnership with fear has cost us so much already as a church. It has fed off the blood of broken relationships and hurting hearts. Let's not reward that spirit with any more blood. I pray that we starve that thing out of our churches, cities and nations. I pray that we learn to be mature in love. Not worried or afraid of fully loving, freedom, the supernatural, or disagreement. But fully accepting and embracing of one another.