• A Random Hump Night Thought

    I mean hump night because today is Wednesday which is halfway through the week, thus earning it the name “hump day” because it’s all downhill once you get over the hump. Just in case you were thinking about that thing your dog does to visitors.

    At any rate, I just wanted to share a random thought with y’all. Don’t worry, my random thoughts are more interesting than most. If not, I figure they’re still worth reading for the bad jokes I have the gall to write on my Christian blog if nothing else. So, here’s my random thought for tonight:

    Did you know that researchers sometimes stumble on these weird connections between the language people speak and some quirk in their thinking which can have disasterous outcomes?

    For example, in most languages, a broken bone is something that happens, not something you do. So you would say, “my arm got broken.” But most English speakers say, “I broke my arm.” This would make no sense in most of the world; a sane person wouldn’t deliberately break their own arm! But in America, we regularly speak this way. If you take a minute, you can think of other examples. “In crashed my car”, “I lost my job”, “I let the dog get out”, etc.

    Which makes me wonder if this isn’t part of what makes America such a blaming culture. Why we have to sue everyone when something bad happens. Why we reflexively blame people for their own misfortune. Because there’s this quirk built into our language which subconciously teaches us that things don’t just happen; some one always has to be responsible. Even if that someone is you right when your arm got broken in an accident.

    Another example is found in countries with high savings rates. Many of us struggle to save or really to plan well for our future at all. But there are a few countries like China and Finland where people sometimes save too much. It turns out that in countries where people are savers, there is no such thing as past, preasent or future tense in their languages. They use the same verb tense and rely on context to convey whether you are talking about past, present or future events.

    Economists theorize that in languages where we shift into future tense whenever we speak of the future, it teaches us to think of the future as something which is different than the present. In languages where the present is spoken of no differently than the future, the fact that the future is most likely going to be very much like the present is obvious. It makes the benefit of saving for a better future seem like the obvious thing to do. Thus, this higher savings rate in countrie where the language has this quirk.

    And then there are those quirks of language which reveal a truth which we all know, but would never say out loud. Like the German word scheudenfreude which means to take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Or my favorite; the Japanese have over a dozen different ways of saying thank you. And it is said that all of them convey varying degrees of resentment between the parties. And isn’t that the truth?

    Ahhh . . . .language. Just what you needed to finish your hump day off right, Although perhaps you have a better way of ending it . . . ;)

  • The Injured Easter Bird

    Once upon a time, there was a farmer who decided not to go to church on Easter Morning. He’d been going his whole life, but a few years earlier he had decided that he was old enough to stop pretending that what went on in church was important enough to get up early for on his only day off.

    This year his wife had harrumphed when he announced that he wasn’t even going to keep up the bare minimum of appearances required to be a Chreaster (a person who attends church only on Christmas and Easter). The whole thing was ridiculous, he said in his calm, practical way. If there was a God, which there could be, despite the utter lack of evidence, why would he or she care so much what we did? Why didn’t God just show up in the sky every few years to confirm his existence and provide some clear, practical instructions for us to follow? Why all the drama? Why ask us to believe that some guy who probably didn’t bathe regularly was actually God and that his gruesome death provides for our salvation? Ridiculous.

    He suspected that his wife thought much the same, but held on to religion almost out of superstition. Sort of like knocking on wood when you say something that could come back to haunt you. You know it can’t really do anything to protect you, but it’s such a small gesture to make. Might as well not take the risk in case there is some truth to it after all.

    So his wife rolled her eyes at his little outburst and got up for Easter service all by herself. She didn’t put any particular effort into being quiet about it, though. She knew he was a light sleeper and had been awake from the moment threw back her covers with a little extra force while getting out of bed and went to the shower humming loudly. He said not a word through her entire performance, but she knew he was only pretending to be asleep when she left. And came back in to grab something she forgot before leaving again. Just to be sure he wasn’t actually still asleep when she left.

    After the third time his wife had left, the farmer waited a long moment before peeking out the window to watch her car pull out the driveway. He’d said his piece and the conversation was over. But he knew that sometimes his wife needed a little time to adjust to not getting her way. Better to feign sleep than get drawn into a pointless argument over it.

    Just as his wife’s car drove past the mailbox, a bird flew right into the window he was looking out of. The farmer was so startled, it took him a moment to realize what had happened. He looked down and saw a small downy woodpecker laying on its back on the ground below the window. He tried looking to see if the bird was breathing. He was too far away to tell, of course. But just as he realized that he’d have to go down and look if he wanted to know, he remembered the barn cats. He quickly put on a shirt and rummaged around the top shelf of the closet until he found an old shoe box. Continue reading

  • Courage

    Take Courage

    Courage

    I think courage is a terribly underappreciated virtue. There’s a tendency to see courage as something a soldier or a superhero needs to face grave danger, while failing to realize how much courage everyday life requires. You can’t grow as a person or keep a living faith life without ample amounts of courage.

    The Greek word for courage is tharseo. Jesus uses it four times. Three times it is when he tells someone he is healing, “take courage”. Healing doesn’t seem at first glance to be a situation which requires courage. Who could be afraid of being healed?

    And yet, healing does require courage. It requires having the courage to consider that things might be better than they are. It requires learning to live from health where previously you had survived in misery. It means facing the world in a way which is new, unknown and different. Healing means you will not be the same person after you are healed that you were when you were sick. It means upsetting a lot of apple carts.

    Strong’s Greek Dictionary says that tharseo literally means to “radiate warm-hearted confidence”. What does someone trapped in sickness, death and blindness know about being warm hearted and confident, much less radiating it? Jesus was asking the people he healed to do something they had no real experience doing before – radiate warm hearted confidence – be courageous.

    Today we may or may not need physical healing, but all of humanity needs spiritual healing. We’ve all been made sick by our wounds, our sins and our fear. Jesus said he came to bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the mourning, set the prisoner free. He is as intent on healing our spirits, just as he healed people physically 2000 years ago.

    And he still says, “take courage” to those he would heal. Because it takes courage to look at our wounds, our sins and our fear. It takes courage to be honest with ourselves, each other and God. It takes courage to let go of the life of suffering we are so accustomed to. It takes courage to embrace a new way of being.

    So many people are spending their lives fleeing from what they fear will undo them. They are fleeing from failure, from shame, from disappointment, sometimes from reality itself. They cover themselves with accomplishments, money, relationships, distractions in their attempts to avoid facing what they need to be healed of. People who are fleeing from what they need to heal from will lie, cheat, steal, harden their hearts, hurt those closest to them. Anything to avoid looking into the abyss of fear, shame and pain they carry within.

    And Jesus says, “take courage.” Healing takes courage. It takes courage to be honest about our failures, our wounds, our sin and fears. It takes courage to give up the tools that kept them at bay. It takes great courage to let go of what we have known and how we have survived up until now. Being healed is not for the faint of heart.

    Is there something you are running away from? Something you have lacked the courage to face? Some wound, some failure in your past, some secret you carry and hide? Take courage, friend.

    “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus, John 16:33

    I pray today to you, Papa God who loves us, that you would make us men and women of courage and strength.

    I pray that your perfect love would cast out our every fear.

    I pray that we would move courageously into the healing you offer us.

    I pray that you would grant us courage as free men and women, radiating warm-hearted confidence so that we can face, with you and the grace you offer, every monster, every secret, every wound, every lie and every harmful thing which has kept us in sickness and bondage.

    I pray that we would know in our heart of hearts that we have been utterly released from any condemnation and shame. That no matter how frightening the sin or suffering we carry, that we would have full confidence that with your love and grace, it is already over come for us.

    I pray that you would grant us the courage we need to step out of darkness and sin, sickness and blindness, death and fear and into the full light of your love.

    May we move forward this day and always with hearts full of courage as we enter into the full healing which is your hearts desire for us.

    Amen and amen.

  • wrong once

    Ego and Pride, Compassion and Healing

    wrong onceOver the last couple of weeks, I have found myself thinking about pride and the ego. There are no end of spiritual teachers who are falling all over themselves to tell us how awful pride and ego are. How they are the root of suffering. How they separate us from God and set us up for a fall. That we can’t live freely and fully until they are driven from our psyche or at least neutralized.

    All of that is true, I suppose. But every time I read something about how awful our ego and pride are, I find that it just doesn’t resonate with me. I don’t find it helpful at all, frankly. Which is why I have been thinking and meditating on it recently. What are other people seeing that I am not?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason that all the railing against ego and pride doesn’t resonate is because it’s lacking in compassion towards poor, frightened, misguided ego and pride. Ego and pride aren’t our enemies to be fought and resisted, it seems to me. Rather they are parts of ourselves which are doing their best to survive in a world where we are lost, confused and frightened.

    I first became aware of the power of pride and ego in my teens. I’ve always had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding. But I had started to recognize that it was unreasonably painful to be wrong. It was actually hard to grow and learn new things because doing so meant facing my imperfections and errors. For some reason, the idea that I was wrong was often unbearably painful.

    I realized that this was, first of all, ridiculous. The expectation that I would know everything and not need to grow and be right in all my thoughts and opinions at 16 was absurd. Logically, I could see how dumb this gut level reaction to things which challenged me was.

    The other issue was that even at that age, it was my plan to continue learning and growing until the day I died. I seriously would say, even back in high school, that I looked forward to aging because I was excited to see what I would know and learn by then. (I’ve always been weird, yes.) Having to deal with this internal resistance and pain every step of the way was going to be a real problem.

    As I thought about the problem, I realized that there was something really deep in me which felt it wasn’t OK to be wrong. That my worth as a human being was dependant on having it all together. I realized that there was a part of my psyche which was afraid that I was always in danger of being exposed as damaged, wrong, unworthy and therefor unlovable. It was this part of me which found the experience of changing or being wrong an intolerably painful threat.

    I saw that pride was, for all its bluster and bravado simply the tool that the broken part of me threw up in an attempt to protect itself. It was strong, yes. But brittle. It didn’t like being challenged and did its best to remain invisible. The trick, I realized was to get it to relax. To let the broken part of me know that it was OK. If I am wrong, that’s OK. It’s not a threat.

    “There’s no harm in considering a new idea,” I would tell it. “Let’s just ask ‘what if?’ and see what it would look like. Maybe we’ll even like it better than what we’re working with right now.”

    In time, my pride became less forceful. My ego started to feel more comfortable and confident. It didn’t feel like it needed to be protecting itself and me all the time. Rather than fighting pride and ego, I began eagerly looking for signs that they were having a hard time. When ego and pride get prickly, that means there was something just itching to be healed or some false belief just dying to be soothed away.

    Many people speak of dying to pride and ego. But I really prefer to view it as healing pride and ego. And yes, it does often feel like dying. Healing often does.

    Sometimes ego and pride still cause problems for me. I have a persistent problem recognizing when I need to just acknowledge someone else’s feelings rather than arguing that they shouldn’t feel them, for example. I know that I don’t have as much joy in my life as God intends because my pride tells me the things meant to bring me joy aren’t important or impressive enough.

    I hope that one day I’ll be healed and whole enough that ego and pride will just relax and melt into the rest of me. But in the meantime, they don’t frighten me. Sure they represent sin. But Jesus died for all that. I don’t need to deny their existence in order to look good – to myself or others. I refuse to blame them for all my suffering or think that they are an enemy to be vanquished. They’re just a sign that I’m still in the process of being redeemed. And a tool to be used to that end.

    So my advice is this: if you’ve been convinced that ego and pride are a threat, an enemy and the source of your suffering, please reconsider. Might it not be that ego and pride are just as much the result of your suffering as the cause? That they are as deserving of compassion as anything in human existence? And that when you befriend rather than fight them, they can be valuable tools and allies in your quest to be conformed to the image of Christ in you? It’s been my experience anyways.

  • juice-cleanse1

    How the Dark Night of the Soul Is Like a Juice Cleanse

    Recently one of my friends on facebook did a 10 day juice cleanse. Now, I’m always a bit sceptical about this whole concept of a cleanse because I want to believe that I can eat all the chemical food I want, in moderation and be just fine. Plus I’m really, really bad at fasting so it  must be unnecessary and probably bad for you, right? But I know a lot of people swear by them.

    Anyways, while doing the cleanse my friend felt pretty crappy for a while. First she was achy and tired like she had the flu. Then she had such awful sinus congestion that she thought she might have developed a sinus infection. And she lost her voice. By the end of the 10 ten days though she said she felt fit as a fiddle and was glad that she had persevered through the whole thing.

    The reason she felt so awful during the first week of her cleanse, the theory goes, was because during this time her body was releasing all of the toxins which had accumulated over the decades. While the whole cleanse concept seems a bit dubious to me, this rang true. Because it’s exactly what I and many others who have or are walking through the dark night of the soul have experienced – spiritually anyways. In fact, following along with her cleanse induced suffering and redemption made me think this was a pretty darn good way of understanding the dark night of the soul experience.

    The dark night of the soul is a phrase coined by John of the Cross who wrote a poem by that name and a book explaining it back in the 16th century in Spain after experiencing it himself. Today the phrase gets tossed around a lot to describe almost any particularly difficult spiritual phase – particularly one which involves spiritual dryness or a sense of separation from God. According to John, there are actually two dark night experiences which some Christians may experience.

    The first is the dark night of the senses. During this experience, any sensual experience of God is removed from the person. That “Spirit raining down/God moved/presence” experience which many of us have during worship, prayer or particularly profound moments just disappears. And it takes comfort, peace and security with it. (I wrote about this experience here.) This is very confusing for many people because no matter what you try – more prayer, worship, fasting, service, confession, spending time in nature, meditation, fellowship, etc – it doesn’t help the person going through it to re-connect with any sense of God’s presence or Spirit moving.

    The dark night of the senses is a weaning process which prevents a person from being dependent on and greedy for spiritual experiences which bring pleasure and comfort. This happens so that we can learn to receive and experience God more directly. When a person comes out of the dark night of the senses, they are left with an ability to sense God’s movements in a more subtle, refined and interior way, even in the absence of any sensual experience of God.

    The second, far less common experience is the dark night of the soul is best understood as a process of purification and purgation of the soul. John of the Cross says, “The dark night is a certain inflowing of God into the soul which cleanses it of its ignorances and imperfections; habitual, natural and spiritual.” It’s like a juice cleanse for the soul. And it will make you just as sick.

    In his explanation of the dark night of the soul, John goes into great detail about the process of this inflowing of God and the cleansing of the soul. The end result is that the soul is perfected and purified to such an extent that it is able to be united completely with God. Being united with God is the ultimate goal of any serious spiritual seeker. Yet the dark night of the soul, properly understood, is granted to relatively few people. Most likely because there are relatively few people who are willing and able to endure it.

    By all accounts it is one of the most horrible, desolate, hopeless experiences any human can walk through. In fact, when John explains how to discern if someone is having a dark night of the soul experience, the checklist of symptoms can basically be summed up as “are you seeking God desperately yet weak in spirit, faith and body, completely crushed, desolate, without hope, unable to be comforted and so miserable that you would rather that God allowed you to die than to continue going through this . . . and do you still want God desperately despite all of it?” Spiritually speaking, it is as close to experiencing the journey of the cross as any human can have.

    The reason for this, it seems to me, is much the same as the reason my friend’s juice cleanse made her sick; while being fed only what is good and pure, the soul releases its toxins and makes you miserable and sick. John puts it this way: “the divine fire of contemplative love . . . expells [the soul's] impurities, blackens it and obscures it, and thus its condition is apparently worse than it was before, more impure and offensive. For while the divine purgation is removing all the evil and vicious humours, which because so deeply rooted and settled in the soul, were neither seen nor felt, but now. . . are rendered clearly visible . . . the soul – though not worse in itself, nor in the sight of God – seeing at last what it never saw before, looks upon itself as not only unworthy of His regard, but even as a loathsome object and that God does loathe it.” In other words, the person going through the dark night experience becomes extremely spiritually sick.

    Like the toxins being purged from my friend’s body when she did her cleanse, every dark and ugly thing in the soul is exposed and pushed to the surface during the dark night of the soul. The common experience of thinking that we are suffering because God is angry with us or disapproves of us is intensified. A soul going through the dark night experience is already suffering and now, seeing so clearly their faults, limitations and sin nature, they can hardly imagine that God wouldn’t and hasn’t utterly rejected them.

    When my friend did her juice cleanse, the release of toxins which made her feel so sick happened when her body was deprived of anything except nourishment which was completely natural, healthy and pure. If she had cheated and snuck in a snickers bar, her body would have absorbed the refined sugars, chemicals and hydrogenated fats to replenish their stores and re-establish a more comfortable equilibrium. She would have felt better in the short run. But her body would not actually be able to rid itself of its toxins completely enough to no longer be dependant on them. It is very much the same thing with the dark night of the soul.

    One of the characteristic traits of a dark night of the soul experience is that nothing brings comfort or life to the person having it. It’s as if the person going through it is deprived of any spiritual sustinence except for that unsatisfying, dull manna that I wrote about last week. Often this happens because every creature and worldly comfort is withheld from the person due to circumstances – ie life just goes all to hell. (John of the Cross was locked in a tiny room with a small window, too high up to look through, with no change of clothing or light and fed a starvation diet for 9 months when he had his dark night of the soul experience.) When things which would normally bring comfort and a sense of life to the person do appear, they are unable to take any comfort or joy in them.*

    It’s a perfectly miserable experience. And generally not one which we can get through without some “cheating”. As John explains, people going through a dark night of the soul will sometimes experience a reprieve from the suffering. It feels like being able to breathe fresh air after being locked in a stuffy, humid room or feeling sunlight on the face after years in the dark. In their excitement at their release from the dark night, the person usually thinks (and hopes) that they have reached the end of their suffering. That God has completed his work in them. But really, this reprieve is a lot like being allowed a Snickers bar and a ham sandwich with an extra serving of manna.

    Some people who have suffered through all the purgation they are capable of enduring and consenting to will not go back into the dark night. They will be much improved by their experience, but the work will remain incomplete. Their union with God will be partial and still subject to the vagaries and frustrations of life. Other people who are able and willing and who God has determined to purify completely will be put back on their manna diet and plunged back into the suffering of purgation.

    My friend was apparently able to de-toxify her body in 10 days, without cheating. But it seems that our souls carry a lot more toxins than even the average American’s body does. The dark night of the soul experience can take decades to complete, although it’s often measured in mere years. Most people who enter into the dark night never do complete it in this life time. But for those who are able to endure to the end, the promise is the soul’s most ardent desire: complete union with God, complete peace and joy and our full restoration to our true identity.

    *A dark night of the soul experience should not be confused with clinical depression. Nor should clinical depression ever be explained away as a dark night of the soul experience. An inability to enjoy good things in life can be a sign of both depression and the dark night of the soul. In fact, sometimes they can happen at the same time. In my experience, on of the main ways to tell the difference is that clinical depression is almost always accompanied by distorted thinking and obtrusive, unwanted thoughts. In a dark night of the soul, the thinking is so clear that every blemish is seen and every excuse is wiped away. There is an absence of obtrusive, unwanted thoughts and instead one’s ability to think things through or reach conclusions is often quite diminished. Clinical depression can and should be treated. The dark night of the soul can only be endured.

  • What To Do About Bad Theology

    theology-2A few years ago, I had the chance to spend some time with an African American couple who pastored a small church in an urban area. They were good, kind hearted people with a real passion for God. And they knew the bible better than anyone I’ve ever met. One night we sat down and opened the bible and spent about 3 hours doing the best, most interesting bible study I think I’ve ever been a part of. The really odd thing about it was that they held some of the worst theology I’ve ever encountered.

    The worst of it was that they taught that people of African descent bore the mark of Cain and were uniquely cursed among all the people of the earth. Africans had been cursed due to their worship of demonic spirits, their abhorant tribal practices and the division of tribalism which lead to violence and dehumanization of other Africans. Evidence of the unique depravity of African people was their willingness to sell each other into slavery. (Just so we’re crystal clear – this isn’t what I think. This was the teaching of this couple, who were themselves African American.)

    Not quite as bad, but still erroneous was their teaching that in order to overcome the curse put on them by God, people of African descent needed to walk the same path by which God redeemed Israel. Emancipation from slavery was their escape from slavery. Next they must receive and keep the law which would lead to them being grafted onto the house of Israel so they could inheret the work of Jesus. Essentially they lived and practiced their faith much like Messianic Jews.

    The “best” part of their theology was rejecting all patterns of thought which were part of the mentality of those who were cursed. They identified the mentality which kept them tied to the curse mainly with tribalism which among African Americans was typified by gangs (ie quick to anger and be offended, us vs them outlook, a willingness to resort to violence, rituals by which members gained access to the group, a will to power). They also rejected the sort of legalism which took away their God-given right to do things like drink wine, play cards, dance, go to the movies, etc. Instead, they encouraged, kindness, humility, tolerance, ready forgivess, patience and other Christian virtues. And they threw in some prosperity gospel style “believe and think right, reap the benefits” thinking for good measure.

    All in all, I think I can safely say they had some bad theology going. If I had met them a few years earlier, I probably would have been so repulsed by it that it would have kept me from enjoying their company, much less engaging in scripture study with them. I probably would have tried to argue with them; convince them to see the error of their ways. I would have been angry that there were people spreading the sort of theology which defames God like that. Instead, I went to their church picnic, drank wine and covered my head with a scarf to pray with them.

    Now, you may not ever have the chance to meet Christians with such wild theology, but odds are good that there are theological beliefs which drive you to the point of wanting to commit violence. It could be neo-reformed theology, partriarchal teachings, pro or anti-gay marriage theology, legalism, liberalism, or some other ism that drives you nuts. We Christians have a very bad track record of being able to tolerate differences in theological opinion. Yet unity among believers is a common teaching of the New Testament. It was one of the things which Jesus prayed for us, in fact.

    What I have come to understand is that since our ability to grasp truth fully is limited, God’s concern is less that we believe the right things and more that what we believe is drawing us closer to him. And the truth is that we hold so many theologies not simply because we’re evil or unthinking sheep or don’t care about truth. Rather, we hold so many different theologies because there are so many different ways of being wounded, confused and needy. Different theologies can meet different needs.

    That couple I met with their terrible theology? They and the members of their church came from violent, gang infested neighborhoods where the disciplines of the middle class didn’t exist. They had inherited a history of unspeakable cruelty and oppression towards their people. And their theology, mistaken as it was in many ways, was helping them make sense of and overcome all of that. The narrative of God’s curse on Africans helped them understand their history and find a way beyond it. The discipline of keeping the law helped them learn the sort of disciplines which middle class people often take for granted – planning, budgeting, keeping a schedule. Framing the dysfunction around them as tribal remnants or oppressive, slave mentality made it easier for them to recognize and reject the water of dysfunction they were swimming in. It was terrible theology, but it served a real purpose for these particular people in this particular time.

    Again, their’s is a rather extreme example. But the truth is that those theologies which make you want to wretch may well be just what someone else needs. And it could well be that the theology which brings you life would do nothing for them. We all need different things on our way to a greater truth.

    Of course, bad theology isn’t always so benign for those who hold it. It can, in fact, destroy people. It can engender abuse. It can make people’s hearts hard or shatter them. It’s not always without consequence. And it’s for this reason that a lot of people expend a lot of time and emotional energy speaking against bad theology. Which to a certain extent is fine. I guess. But more and more I wonder if this urge to argue and divide doesn’t really stem from our own immaturity and lack of faith.

    First of all, God doesn’t need us to defend him. As Crystal St. Marie Lewis says, “When a god begins to require the custodial protection of those who worship him, he is no longer a god. He becomes an idol.” Without realizing it, many of us think that God can not handle those who defame him without our assistance. That if we don’t step in to mount a good defense, bad theology will win and God will lose. The truth is that God will make himself known in his own way and his own time with or without our assistance.

    The second issue is that we have actually underestimated the scope of the problem; there’s a lot of evil theology out there. Much more than you think, in fact. Any theology which isn’t completely true is evil. God is light and in him there is no darkness. If it’s not God, it’s dark and evil. So there’s evil in your theology and in mine. But, whether it’s evil in our theology or in the theology of others, the answer isn’t to search it out, cast it out and rise up against it. Rather it’s to allow God to do that work. The bible says, “what the enemy meant for evil, God uses for good.”

    Our part isn’t to fight, but to obey. Jesus said not to resist the evil man. Paul instructs us to keep our eyes on what is good, true, pure, praiseworthy. Evil is overcome by goodness. Do good to those who oppose you.

    I know, I know, “all it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” And yes, Jesus spoke out against the bad theologians of his day. But consider that doing good isn’t being passive. Often, doing good is an assertive challenge. Especially when working from a position of less power than the one promoting evil. Greg Boyd recently wrote a book in which he argued that God has choosen to do battle through the “weak power of love” instead of by taking hold of the strong power of aggression which we humans prefer to do battle with.

    And those bad theologians Jesus told off? They provoked confrontations with him. He wasn’t sitting to the side when these people taught, pointing out all their errors and condemning them. With few exceptions, Jesus followed the edict to promote what you love rather than bash what you hate. We should do likewise.

    I know that this seems like really bad advice. God’s instructions usually make for bad advice. Which, I suppose is why we so rarely follow them. But ultimately, we need to put our faith in the power of God and not our own. We need to look at these things with spiritual eyes rather than measure them with human methods. Do you trust in God and the work of the Holy Spirit to lead the bride out of all the bad theology? Do you trust that if you seek first the Kingdom – not go to battle for it, not defend it, not defeat its enemies – that God can handle the rest? If so, then may I suggest that the next time you run into some really bad theology, you simply recognize a brother or sister in Christ and love them the best you can?