It’s easy to love those who love us, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love everyone. Sometimes that can be hard, especially when trying to love those who pose a threat to other believers. I’ve been thinking about a group of people who I have some strong issues with – those who are in the camp of non-traditional Christian faith.
I’ve also been thinking about how to best deal with this, and I recognize something swelling up in me towards these ministers, something I do not like at all: Hatefulness.
I’ve referred to these as “contrarian false prophets, teachers, and preachers,” “ministers of righteousness,” and referenced this trend of non-traditional ministers in various articles over the past few months. If you’re not familiar with what I refer to, in basic terms, I’ve made some note of some Christian ministers who teach a lot of the same things myself and others I trust teach, but they mix in ideas that are vain, ill-focused, call for legalistic obedience, speak for God wrongly, and many other damaging notions.
As I’ve mentioned before, the reason these affect me so strongly is because they often take advantage of new Christians and others who want more from their Christian walk than they often find among churches and their traditions. These are the people I want to focus on reaching so they can know that Jesus is real. I want them to know that He is alive and He has amazing promises for them that can transform mind, body, and spirit – freeing us from the darkness that has controlled and damaged us. This was me just a few short years ago, so I understand their confusion, doubt, and pain.
Unfortunately, these false, non-traditional ministers and the like seem to be everywhere and new ones are popping up all the time. How does one deal with this? I’ve been increasingly frustrated with it all over the last few weeks, but should I be? I don’t think so.
I cannot condone the things taught by those who oppose the gospel, set themselves up as something higher than they should, or lead people down a path of dangerous and distracting teachings. But, I can love them. Of course, I believe that God is in control, and He is using them for a purpose—even if I can’t understand what that purpose is. I also know that we cannot judge the heart of any person or their salvation, and if they are still alive, they might still turn away from their sins and towards a better understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been thinking about these people and what their lives must have been like. What led them down this path? Maybe they grew up unloved, mistreated, and cast out. I can imagine that many grew up in traditional churches, saw the hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and lack of love often displayed in buildings that were supposed to be houses of God. I expect that some might have even had spiritual experiences and when they went to share these things, they were called mentally ill, or worse yet, demonically afflicted.
They believed in Jesus, but there is no place for them to learn and grow or they generally don’t trust people and cannot even fathom what it means to love or be loved the way Jesus did. Something is wrong here, isn’t it? Someone needs to speak out against the falsities of the Christian traditions, don’t they? So what do you do? You start a ministry.
I understand that I can’t possibly know the life story of these people, and I especially cannot judge their heart. But, I can’t help but wonder about these things. What if I had lived their life? Maybe I have in a lot of ways. If it were not for the goodness of Jesus Christ, I could just as well be among those who I stand against. Though we are very different in a lot of ways, we are also similar in ways.
Instead of feeling frustrated because these kinds of ministers attract those who I want to reach out to, I should remember the patience and sovereignty of God and instead choose to love them, pray for them to be delivered and for the Lord Jesus to give them strength to overcome and step away from ministries they spent many years building. That cannot be easy to do.
As I think more on this, I find a lot of sympathy for them. I know what it is like to feel outcast by those of the faith. I know how easy it can be to read too much into the bible or allow some idea to take root when it should not. I know what it is like to battle vain thoughts. I battle them every day, and if it were not for Jesus, who knows where that might lead. But, I also know that Jesus is extraordinarily merciful. It does not matter who you are or what you have done, no sin is too big for Him. We have all fallen short, and God uses us in mysterious ways. There could be some of these ministers who are being prepared to stand against deception. There could be ministers who seem to be my enemy who might end up being strong allies for the kingdom of God.
We cannot know what God has planned for people. Just like Paul the apostle who went from persecuting the early Christian church to writing most of the New Testament, it is often those who appear to be on the wrong side of things who end up doing some of the greatest works for God. So, we should continue to love them, pray for them, and have faith that all things are coming together according to the perfect will of God.