“For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.”
~2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NRSV).
Satan is living and active in this world and is set, in many ways, in denigrating any good works that he can, dissuading those in the faith, and, reprehensibly, those approaching. His ministers are everywhere; yes, they’re even cloaked occasionally in Christian garb.
For the Apostle Paul, it was a living reality in his overall ministry — as it is today. But, there was a specific threat he alludes to here, above.
Brand-Marked with the Violent
Change tack... here’s an informed quote, from a marketing guru, but note the shrill distinctiveness of the parallel:
“We either ignore your brand or we judge it, usually with too little information. And when we judge it, we judge it based on the actions of the loudest, meanest, most selfish member of the tribe.”
Godin is quick to point out that any ‘brand’ is marked with the smear of the worst of the brand: “The worst voice of the brand *is* the brand.”
Now, substitute from the indented quote the word “brand” with “faith” and we find a truth sparkles for all to see. When the world sees sensationalised coverage of hate-fuelled Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, for good instance, it ‘brands’ Christianity and Christians as judgmental bigots, full of hate; not freed in the love of Jesus Christ to love.
Our ‘brand’ is damaged.
This is the brand of grace; a brand the whole dying world needs to hear, feel and experience. It’s the brand that cost Jesus Christ his life. It’s a brand that was engineered before time began.
Calling False Teaching for What It Is
This abovementioned church, with their hate-fuelled policies, is a false-teaching church. But they’re not the only ones. (Importantly, the church and minister that thinks they’re beyond false teaching has their grip on the fear of the Lord all wrong.)
In Paul’s case, the problematic Corinthians were perhaps masquerading as angels of light by style rather than via teaching — as they attached themselves to any glory they could in boast-worthy ways because of the Apostle’s ministry.
Let’s shift back to Seth Godin.
He finishes his article with a charge to adherent members of the ‘tribe’ toward the violent ones: “You’re hurting us, this is wrong, we are expelling you.” Things are different in the wider church — for some, God will have to be the judge. Expulsion isn’t always an option. We have a wide ‘brand’.
Still, false teaching is ever-prevalent and, indeed, it’s marking our last days as we’ll go out with a bang!
The Test of a Teaching’s Righteousness or Wickedness
What test could we apply to the mode or content of ministry in unveiling its marks, whether right or wicked?
Could love be that test? It seems incredible that the answer — the divining line — might be so simple.
The Westboro church is separatist and exclusive, when Christ came to unite the world under one magnificent, reconciling Covenant — according to the Holy Bible.
God loves all humankind. God hates not the sinner, but the sin. God loves us all.
And so is the right teacher loving; manifest in tolerating and forgiving all — even to violent ministers — as they teach these loving things and live by these very statements of their faith.
We may not be able to expel disparate, and wickedly led church fellowships, but we can ask God to forgive them for their sins (as we ask him to forgive ours); for they might not know what they’re doing (Luke 23:34), and are hence used by Satan for his broader purposes.
Best we know, nonetheless, the damage these are doing for the purposes of the Gospel. Then again, we must also know, with supreme assurance, that to allow this is also part of God’s grand plan.
For all, our ends will match our deeds. Will we hate or will we love?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.