What do you do when you know someone is wrong about something, but they are just so convinced that they’re right? What should you do?
Now, let them have some sort of higher status than you — more popular, more experienced, of higher rank, an expert, more highly esteemed. Now what do you do?
But let’s not stop there. What if not only is this greatly esteemed person so convinced they’re right, but so are all of their adoring fans?
How are you supposed to handle that?
Here’s how a lot of people handle it: they just don’t say anything. Or, they just go with the flow and affirm it along with everyone else. Nobody wants to be labeled the odd man out, or a hater, or a troublemaker. Nobody wants to make themselves a target of the ridicule of the masses.
Remember the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? The king of the land allowed himself to believe that his new royal outfit would only be invisible to the common person, the less sophisticated, the less important. Only the elite of the land would be able to actually see the king’s clothes and appreciate its exquisite, superior quality. In fact, he decreed it across the kingdom, so everyone was given the heads-up: If you can’t see the clothes, there’s something wrong with you.
So, what happened? As the proud, self-important king paraded along amongst his citizens, showing off his new regal duds, everyone exclaimed in awe how absolutely divine he looked. Of course, what they were really thinking is what was really the truth, that this dude was strutting in his underwear. But everyone was afraid to displease him and to disagree with the rest of the crowd who were all shouting their praises.
Except for one young boy who was pure enough to just tell it like it is: “Look! The Emperor has no clothes!”
Immediately, everyone realized their folly, with the disgraced king running for cover — literally.
In the Christian church today, sometimes somebody needs to be straightforward enough to just say something. You don’t have to be some special somebody to do it. As long as you have the truth as measured by the Word of God taken in proper context, and as long as you’re truly not a hater or a troublemaker, the truth is all you need to qualify you to simply tell it like it is.
The goal is to help people see things the way they really are so that everyone can grow in their understanding of God’s Word and thereby be able to apply it effectively. The motive in saying anything should be brotherly love and encouragement, all for the glory of Jesus Christ. See 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:1; and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
But too many people in the kingdom don’t want to be seen as common. Many of us can see that the emperor — that is, our beloved pastor, our favorite televangelist, our popular reality show guru, and our top psycho-inspirational speaker — is misinterpreting a scripture, teaching damnable heresies, mistreating the sheep, or guilty of unrepentant sin. But because of the emperor’s status, and/or because of his or her adoring fans, we’d rather rationalize their folly away, tell ourselves, “Oh, God will handle it,” or be intimidated to “touch not God’s anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22).
It’s not easy to speak up. I know first-hand, it doesn’t matter how gently you approach it or how clearly you can show it from the scriptures (e.g., the context of 1 Chronicles 16:22 shows that the “anointed” is the whole nation of Israel), some people just won’t accept the truth. Not only that, they will then somehow try to diminish you for saying something about it in the first place.
For instance, recently a Facebook friend — another pastor’s wife whom I only met online — posted something and I sent her a private message saying how I appreciated her heart behind the post, and that I wasn’t trying to start anything, but that it wasn’t quite biblical. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but I do know it was important enough to point it out to her. We dialogued nicely about it for a minute, and I purposely kept saying to her I wasn’t speaking on any authority except what I could see from God’s Word.
She soon said to me, “Oh, you’re one of those bible-toting, scripture-quoting Christians.” To which I replied, “Aren’t you?!” What else has any authority for matters of the Faith?
Her last message to me told me I was making her want to unfriend me, which she then immediately did.
Less dramatic than that but still troubling, a very likeable inspirational speaker, published author and life coach in the Los Angeles area told me via Facebook that Romans 3:23 — which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” — is actually telling us that God wants us to live out our full potential in this life so that we can give Him more glory. She included a reminder that she’s been in ministry and teaching on this for many years. I didn’t feel it necessary to list any of my little credentials. (If you’re interested at all, please see the Who She Think She Is? page.)
I told her I thought the context was about eternal salvation through Christ, but I promised to go back and check, because I want to make sure I’m on the same page with God.
And that’s what I did, not just starting at Chapter 3 verse 1 but Chapter 1 verse 1 all the way to the end of Chapter 5. I already knew I was correct, but I need to practice what I “preach” about using scripture in proper context.
Why bother? Because her many fans could be led down an attractive but ultimately destructive path if they misunderstand the Apostle Paul’s message about man’s fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves, and our need for a Savior to rescue us from eternal punishment and bring us to awesome fellowship with our Heavenly Father forever. To get anything but that out of the context of Romans 3:23 — indeed, to even read that very verse any other way — is to ignore what is otherwise so easy and so eternally crucial to see.
So, I felt compelled to say that the emperor has no clothes. Not like that, of course. But I went back a few days later to this lovely person and told her what I had discovered. Her response was that she did not remember our dialogue.
“No worries,” I reassured her. “But still, what do you now think about that verse?” She never replied. We remain FB friends, though, so that’s good, I guess.
You don’t need to be of high status, esteem, rank, experience or expertise to be able to say outloud when the emperor has no clothes. All you need is an open bible, basic reading comprehension skills, faith for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to you, the willingness to be corrected yourself, and most of all a heart for fellow believers.
People will reject you, call you names, belittle you. But as long as you are relying on God’s Word and not your own or your pastor’s or some other man’s or woman’s, you can be at peace about it because their issue is really with God and not you.
More and more there are people and preachers and popular personalities who put themselves on a pedestal, and the gullible will blindly affirm them or in some other way, even with their silence, enable them. Who is willing to say with me, by the authority of the Holy Bible and for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone, please, open your eyes!
Leave a comment, and I will endeavor to respond as soon as possible.
As long as it is done in love and in a discussion between the two of you first, which is exactly how you approached it, there shouldn’t be a problem with correcting someone. A true beleiver would welcome it because it’s not about saving face, but saving grace and getting His truth out there if He’s given us a platform to spread His word. It’s when people become the Bible police and are condescending in their tone on someone else’s platform correcting others without truly listening to their point of view and actually believing they may learn something new themselves that I have a problem with.
I absolutely believe that the Lord can use scripture to get across multiple life lessons or applications – it’s what makes His Word so alive. But I will say that I agree with the “For All have sinned…” scripture being about eternal salvation alone based on what I have discerned thus far.
Sister Andi, thank you for commenting. I love this: “it’s not about saving face, but saving grace and getting His truth out there.” Very on point, because that should be the motive. The rest of your comment is on point as well. We do have to be careful to correct in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 (in the spirit of meekness and discernment that, but by the grace of God there go I). I look forward to hearing more of your wisdom, my precious sister!
Good stuff Laurel. And I agree with Sister Andi when says regarding about correcting a fellow believer “A true beleiver would welcome it.” As long as its done in the spirit of love in Christ I know I do.
Your article is very applicable to almost every aspect of life. Being the political-minded individual that I am, I can think of several people (a lot actually) at the national level that I look at and go “hmmm… you have no clothes!” They’re easy to spot in my opinion. However, within the church these types of people are a lot harder to spot because they sound logical and well reasoned, especially to those who does not know the word of God very well.
That is why in 2 Timothy 4:2 says:
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”
Keep up the good works!
I appreciate your comment, Octavio. Why do you think it is that the sheep in the pews don’t know the Word of God very well?
Sister Laurel recently posted…I’m Afraid of the Dark
Oh gosh Laurel, I think that’s a loaded question with so many possible trajectories. I’ll do my best.
I think there are several reasons why the sheep don’t know the word of God very well. Being fed by your pastor only goes so far and after thinking about it for a bit, I believe the problem is both sides of the same coin, where one side is the sheep and the other is shepherd.
Part of the reason is I believe that the sheep are lazy. They do not take personal responsibility for their own spiritual growth and want to be spoon fed by their local pastor all the time. A lot of them (I would even say most) want to remain spiritual babies only wanting the milk of the Word, their weekly ration from their pastor. I personally have met many people who have been “Christians” all their lives and have been just strictly on milk. The milk is “ok” against obvious trampling that goes against the word of God (IE. someone declaring they know the exact date of Jesus’ return). But when you have some of the preachers that are more like motivational speakers who smell good, look good, and sound good but are biblically inaccurate, the milk is not enough. You have to have the meat of the Word in you in order to spot these sooth-sayers otherwise you’re going to be deceived. Please don’t misunderstand me I’m not against motivational speakers. I like motivational speakers who have passion in their speech, that encourage others to be better human beings. However, if they are going to talk about God’s Holy word, they better know their stuff because I am ready to listen.
The flip-side of the coin is the shepherd.
Jesus tells us:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” – John 10:11-13
Jesus is the ultimate Good Shepherd. In Ephesians 4, it also tells us that Jesus calls some of us to be prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers to equip His people for ministry. With that said, there are many hirelings but they are not true shepherds. The hirelings do whatever they can to keep the sheep in the pews. Some of them even run mega-churches spewing the feel-good doctrines of the prosperity Gospel. Some hirelings will call themselves “The Reverend [fill in the name].”A true pastor will inspire and train the sheep to get out of the pew and go preach the Gospel. Reach out to their local, national and global communities. A true pastor will also watch his own flesh and desires and be mindful of the trappings that has brought down so many. There have been so many great pastors that have built ministries for 20-30 years only to succumb to wiles of the devil (IE. adultery, thievery). The real pastor will be truly repent. The hireling will make excuses.
Furthermore, a true pastor will not just watch after the sheep but will empower the sheep with the word of God. A hireling will keep the sheep complacent. A true pastor will encourage the sheep to read the Word for themselves throughout the week and promote smaller community groups within their church (This is especially important if the church is a mega-church). A hireling will make himself the center of attention (not Christ) encouraging others to come back next week and listen to him (and only him) some more. A true pastor will realize that the people are at many different stages in their spiritual journey and therefore will serve up milk, stir-fried, and the meat of the Word. A hireling will only serve up dessert.
SIDE NOTE: Stir-fried is a word I heard once used in sermon to describe those in-between things of the scripture that are not really milk but they are not really meat.
So to come back to your question “Why do you think it is that the sheep in the pews don’t know the Word of God very well?” It’s partly the pastor’s fault and partly the sheep’s fault with most of the fault being on the pastor as he is over the sheep.