Have You Hugged a Heretic Today?

July 9, 2014

What if your church was infested?

After they burned Heretic Steve, the congregation enjoyed their monthly potluck dinner in peace.

After they burned Heretic Steve, the congregation enjoyed their monthly potluck dinner in peace.

Not infested with roaches or termites. What if your church was infested with heretics?

What if there were people who were actually inside your church, people who sat in church every Sunday, who pretended to be like you and me, but they were anything but? What if they were imposters who did not catch the “vision” of your church? What if someone was not so sure about some of the basic faith tenants that your pastor teaches?

Would you round them up?

Would you interrogate them?

Would you “bug bomb” your church to get rid of the heretics once and for all and keep the church pure and clean?

Well here’s the thing, people. Our churches are infested. And it’s up to us to decide what we are going to do about it.

Time to Smoke Out the Heretics

Believe it or not, your church is literally crawling with heretics. It is an infestation of biblical proportions.

Someone will come to church on Sunday and will sit and listen, but they will doubt.

Maybe someone in your church speaks in tongues…secretly. Or perhaps that heretic over there secretly does not speak in tongues.

There will be a man or a woman who believes the Supreme Court made the right decision in regards to Hobby Lobby. Or there will be someone who will secretly believe they got it wrong. There may be a person who is not so sure that “Plan B” and “Ella” are abortifacients.

Look around at church on Sunday and you will find someone who thinks that the illegal immigrants who are pouring over the border should be given warm food and a bed and allowed to stay as long as they please. Or maybe you’ll find someone who believes that the rule of law needs to be enforced at the border. I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Shocking.

There will be someone who voted for President Obama. Or you could find someone who voted against him.

Perhaps the heretic sitting next to you actually believes that gays should be allowed to marry. Or wait, maybe the heretic secretly opposes gay marriage. You might find a heretic who believes women should have a broader role in ministry…or a heretic who, somehow believes that women should not be in ministry.

I know, it is appalling, but there are all manner of heretics, infidels and unbelievers in our churches. They are right under our noses.

30,000 Pure, Pristine American Churches

The heretic situation in our churches is significant because the American church has long thrived on our presumption of uniformity. All of our churches have particular tenants of faith, and we believe that everyone believes, interprets and applies those tenants in the same way.

When we discover that there are actually impure people in our church, we typically have treated them in much the same way.

We expel them.

We excommunicate them.

We burn them at the stake.

And our churches, once again are purified.

The only problem?

We now have tens of thousands of completely disunified, but presumably very pure churches. We have made it our obsession to make sure that our churches are theologically pure, socially pure, even politically pure. We rest easy that we can take our children to our church in the suburbs now because there will not be any harmful influences on them.

But it is all an illusion. There is no such thing as a pure church. There is no church, save maybe a cult in which everyone thinks, believes and lives in the same way. Where two or three are gathered…those people are sure to disagree on something, even if they both call themselves “Christians.”

The pursuit of uniformity and purity has given us but one thing: fatally divided church, that still are not pure. Because more often than not, our disagreements are not over a matter in which the scriptures are one-hundred percent clear. They are matters in which we are free to make up our own minds and follow our own consciences.

It Is Easy to Love People We Do Not Know

You know what’s funny?

It’s easy to love poor Africans. Seriously. It’s easy. You can sponsor an African, even have the money automatically deducted from your bank account so you never even notice it. And you get a warm gooey feeling inside. Most of us will never meet the children we sponsor (ours is named Mugishu.)

But what if we actually met our sponsored African children and learned the truth about them? What if we learned that their “Christianity” did not look exactly like ours? What if we found out that something that we take for granted as “truth” made absolutely no sense to them?

Would we discard them? Cancel our membership? Tell them that we can no longer love them? We would have to be pretty callous to do that.

It is easy to love people who are far away, who we will probably never meet. It is a lot harder to love and worship side by side with people.

Because we are all heretics.

What do you think? Has our pursuit of uniformity been our crippling downfall, or is it the invasion of “heretics” that has weakened our churches beyond repair?

4 responses to Have You Hugged a Heretic Today?

  1. I can say with some certainty that our church does indeed contain many sides of this “coin.” I also believe that most who attend recognize this fact. I guess the question mulling around in my head is this: if we don’t allow “heretics” into the church, how will each of us learn what Truth is? If we aren’t willing to seek out God’s truth, then THAT might be the reason for the downfall. . .

  2. In regards to the church, I really believe it starts with the leadership. If you have leaders that think in black and white, you’re going to have members who either buy into the vision/doctrine/etc or they can leave. Good leadership values unity by making room for varying viewpoints and perspectives. Even on the “essentials”. *GASP* (I guess I’m a heretic now).

    Because true community is based on relationship, not on agreement. When we base our relationships on how much we agree, we find ourselves going through friends, family and marriages more quickly than we ever expected because…SPOILER ALERT: we’re never going to fully agree with anyone on anything…EVER.
    Tony Alicea recently posted..The Hunger of Fatherhood

    • We also must make room for changes in what we think/believe. Now I’m not advocating for a touchy, feeling, arbitrary version of truth but an evolving of truth based on what we experiencing in our lives. My understanding of grace is different from when I was in Sunday school, to how I see it after I was divorced. We grow and evolve. We are responsible for ensuring our love for others prevails. God is responsible (and He does quite well at it) for ensuring truth ultimately prevails.
      Tony Alicea recently posted..The Hunger of Fatherhood

  3. Paul Sundberg July 23, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    You are right in saying “They are matters in which we are free to make up our own minds and follow our own consciences”
    This is even Biblical, (See Romans chapter 14). But it isn’t much preached. The Apostle refers to “disputable matters”. The problem is the discussion is then what is disputable? What one says is a matter of conscience another considers an essential. My “theology will not be 100% right at the end of my life, ( I will be happy if I am close), But my relationship (s) need to be and that is more important.
    ” Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another”
    That is what Grace is about.