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!
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