I think I’m going to be contemplative in this post. Let’s begin this dialogue.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” -2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)
In verse 6 of that same chapter, Paul tells us about the treasure which is “the knowledge of the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” And he tries to explain somehow, that this awesome revelation, this knowledge of the light of the glory of God, was given to us as servants of God so that there would be no mistake whatsoever that the power is God’s power made manifest in and through us, and not our own power. Very clear.
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sister, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” –Philippians 3:17
Man! Where do I begin? Where do we begin to unpack these verses of scripture: Philippians 3:17 and 2 Corinthians 4:7?
I’ve always been the kind of person to “make noise” about other people, and by that I mean that I enjoy singing the praises of others. Paula is such a great woman; she did this and that; she’s such a blessing to me. Peter is so sincere; I love how he speaks with such composure and wisdom. Aw man! This woman, she’s just the best. Her books have literally changed my life.
In the past few months this year, I have had to listen to criticisms about public figures in the faith that I listen to and admire; people I have loved, cherished, prayed for and given thanks to God for. The most recent things I read made me stop to think. Where is the place for publicly or privately singing the praises of a person who has been a blessing to me? Does it matter that they aren’t perfect examples?
I have been bombarded with the failings of many preachers or teachers of God’s word this year, in a way I have never been before. Why is it that I can seem to point to the good and the great, even, of the things that these people do or have done, and not their imperfect rendering of scriptures for example?
Here’s what affects my perspective on figures of faith, living or dead:
The Lord Jesus said, “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.” –Matthew 23: 8,9
I learnt long enough ago that no one was the source of all truth or the final authority but God. Knowing this made me humble to seek God’s will and God’s truth (the only truth) in His word and in fellowship and worship. Even though by my new nature in Christ, I am able to humble myself to listen to the authority that God has instituted on earth in human beings in various roles in the church, such as tried and tested apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers; I also always know that God is the highest authority, and every one of these expressions of God’s gifts to us, must pass through the filter of God’s truth. This is of course a bigger deal than I’ve made it to be in just a few lines, but it is as simple as that.
I have been first subject to God’s Spirit, and His word, and then to Godly instituted human authority. This means that I am able to “test every spirit,” (1 John 4:1) and not fall into error and sin by following teachings and practices that are contrary to God’s word.
That being said, when I scream, “Paula or Peter or Mark or whoever” is an amazing blessing, there are a number of things I have at the back of my mind. One, I respect and honour God’s gift, and God’s expression in that person’s life. I am able to agree with them where they agree with the word of God as clearly spelt in the scriptures, but in some situations still maintain a distance from certain things they may have said which I perhaps don’t see to be the truest interpretation of certain scriptures. I am also able to acknowledge God’s real testing and trying in that person’s life, while being able to see perhaps that they have gone off track at a stage in their lives, no longer holding fast to the truth as they once did. I am able to disagree with aspects of their lifestyle or beliefs which do not contradict the very foundation of our faith in Christ, while being able to receive God’s wisdom through them, verified by His word.
I guess, I can say that I don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. There are times that someone has gone too far off the mark and I choose not to listen to them anymore, at least not actively, not because I think everything they say is wrong, but because although I recognize God’s gift working in them, the sake of my mind which is still being renewed after the image of Christ, I keep myself from possible “corruption” of the truth.
How do I praise people or acknowledge God’s grace in their lives even as God has blessed me in some way or the other through them, and not pass the wrong message to those who may be hurt by what may seem to be my complete endorsement of such people?
I’m not sure I know the best way. But I’m saying very clearly here, that I believe in acknowledging people who God has used to bless me in some way or the other, whether in the past or presently, and give thanks to God for them, even when I also recognize that there are ways that they have missed some essentials. If such a person were in my close circles, I would be able, by the grace of God, to call them aside and say, “Sister. God is doing so much in you and through you, and I have been blessed by your ministry, but could you examine such and such in the light of such and such scriptures?” Yes, that’s my belief. My position is not to always be in a hurry to put the heretic label on my sisters and brothers in Christ even when they have missed some vital points.
I, for one, missed a whole load of vital points in the early stages of my Christian walk. I’m so glad God didn’t decide to toss me aside or consider me unfit to bear witness to His glory. Earthen vessels, remember?
Paul, however, did say to the Christians he was writing to, “Emulate me. Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” Maybe, in our time, it’s more difficult to discern the whole truth of the scriptures such that nobody seems to be able to say as Paul said, “Follow my example.” Or is this something we can expect of ourselves – to come to that point where people can follow us and not be led into a ditch?
I wouldn’t stop singing the praises of wonderful men and women of God who have blessed me, but I hope I can do so in such a way as to not mislead others who are growing in one aspect of the faith or the other. We all have some growing and changing to do, and I pray the Holy Spirit, as Jesus already promised, will lead us into ALL truth. Amen.