Joel Osteen preaches prosperity gospel.
Joyce Meyer is a woman with headship over men.
Jen Hatmaker affirms LGBTQ.
He does yoga. She doesn’t believe in a seven-day creation. He doesn’t believe in tithing.
These people and practices like these are constantly deemed “heretical” by Evangelical Christians. While I do not pretend that any of the examples cited are without flaw, I think they call attention to a large problem we experience in the Christian community. More than calling out immoral behavior when we see it, Christians often react with claws out at the first sign of a fellow Believer expressing a different biblical belief than they, or the lack of a belief at all. Sometimes it’s on hot button issues like LGBTQ or women in authority. Other times, it’s less consequential concerns like if one believes it’s okay to speak in tongues to themselves or not attend organized church. As is probably apparent from, well, pretty much every blog of mine, my views on a lot of these little things have been shifting. For example, I’m currently uncomfortable by the idea that many church buildings invest thousands into their own coffee shops, book stores, and bigger and better light systems when there are starving people down the street. I recently polled my Instagram story to ask how many of my followers have been subtly or overtly ostracized for shifting their beliefs, and 78% they had. The few specific examples I was sent in my DM’s concerned other Christians trying to shout them down with Scripture to tell them why they’re wrong for thinking that way.
In this season of what some call “deconstructing,” I’ve been shifting perspectives. The result has been a lot of deep conversation with Christians I know who are willing to look at things differently, in addition to receiving concerns for the status of my faith from other Christians. Nobody has called me a heretic (to my face anyway), but it’s a word I see used often online to alienate other Christians veering from the western biblical interpretation we’ve been propagating so long that we forget it’s not gospel.
As someone who is probably flirting with heresy in the eyes of many Evangelical Christians, I would like to clarify some things on behalf of the doubters and deconstructionists:
I do not think I know better than you. In fact, the more I read my Bible, the less firmly I feel on different biblical principles. I want to know Jesus more, and I want to know the truth; that’s why I’m stepping back and looking at it from different angles.
I don’t trust your interpretation of that Scripture you try to “school” me with. Well maybe you’re thinking, “there is no interpretation, I’m just telling you what the Bible says!” I know that, but I also won’t apologize for being skeptical about the way we apply our English version, seen-through-western-eyes text that has been translated hundreds of times from language to language. Does this mean the Bible we have today can’t be trusted? I don’t believe that at all. Rather, I think it is our fallible minds that can’t always be trusted. Pardon me if I don’t convert to your doctrine right away.
I have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. “Heretics” are often patted with a simpering flavor that tastes like, “If only you truly knew God.” Nothing disgusts me more than this approach. Jesus stressed that it is not for us to judge a man’s heart, and we have far overstepped our boundaries when we try to size up someone’s intentions because their beliefs don’t perfectly line up with ours. I have never depended on Christ more than in these times of re-examination. I may not know or understand all of the Bible, but I know Christ. I cling to the gospels and His red-lettered words because they are clear, peaceful, and full of good principles I can apply daily.
Remember when Paul said, (Paul, perhaps the most controversial author in Scripture) “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” – Phillipians 1:18. If devaluing mega church pastors who preach for personal gain is not meant to be a major concern for us, then should it be worthy of derision when a fellow Believer seeks to deepen their relationship with Christ through exploration and re-examination?
I see a lot of fellow Christians treating those of us in the deconstructionist club as if we need saving. They fear we are going down the devil’s path or dabbling in evil. I respect these good intentions of not wanting a Believer to go the wrong way, but I think, most of the time, they have judged that we are going the wrong way before they explore what is in our hearts or what it is we are after.
When I hear that the word of God is living water, that tells me it is full of endless wisdom and takeaways. There are things I might glean from a verse that are totally different from what you may see in it at present, but that doesn’t necessarily mean either of us have an incorrect interpretation. If every part of the Bible only has one clear message to be gained, that doesn’t sound like a living Word to me. Anyone can read a book once and get something out of it. But to continue learning new things and to be touched in different ways, only a living Word that reveals itself anew to every person could accomplish such a phenomenon.
Before you bristle up at someone’s interpretation of Scripture or lack of belief about a certain topic, ask yourself, why is that so bothersome to you? Don’t try to evaluate their heart, but invite them into a conversation about the issue with the goal to learn, and not to correct. Are we so prideful that we think know the one and only true perspective on every issue? I pray not.
I hope that this post is encouraging to you! Have you ever felt isolated because your beliefs were veering from the traditional? How did you work through that? I want to know it all; let’s chat in the comments!
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