“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you”
Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.
In this day, there are established, well-known and sometimes indeed ‘celebrated’ (I don’t like to use that word for people but it’s valid here) people of God who, after a lifetime of hearing God’s voice, are ‘coming out’ in various ways. They are saying things that the conservative people in the Church don’t like. Things like how they believe that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people should be completely accepted into the Church. Things like saying that Muslims may be in Heaven. Things like going against the evangelically-accepted norm of believing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is the perfect manual for all life’s problems, decisions, morality etc.
These people are modern-day prophets. They are speaking God’s Heart to His Church, because He loves the Church and wants them to reflect Him, not horrible man-made doctrines like the religious-sponsored (and religious-approved) persecution of the minorities (like said LGBTQ people) and widows and orphans (divorced people and, by extension, their children). Doctrines like the inerrancy of Scripture, a doctrine that has done so, so, so much damage because it opens the door to manmade but supposedly Scripture-approved legalism. In this way the Yeast of the Pharisees makes its way through every new congregation until that church is just like all the others in its legalism.
Anyway, what happens is that many in the established church reject these people and their message. The prophets are stoned; that is, they are publicly vilified, rejected and persecuted by the very people who used to love going to hear those people speak, sing or whatever it was they did so well – and in the Spirit, too – that got them their reputations as great people of God. Stoning was a public execution, participated in by all who wanted to join in, done to those who went against the religious structures of the day, and this is no different.
Take, for example, the Christian gospel singer Don Francisco, a man who has ministered to millions in the Church over the past four decades, in power and healing, through his songs. He and his wife Wendy have recently expressed support for gay people, and have also expressed the thought that maybe we should remember that Jesus is the Word of God, and not the Bible itself. The response of modern-day Pharisees to that post on Facebook was largely horrible; it was also the case for another of Don’s postings, when he put forward the idea that “Perhaps hope does extend beyond pat formulas” when he shared a Billy Graham quote; There was no Grace whatsoever in their attacks on him – although many people did support him too.
Another example is the great evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, whom Don quoted in the above link. Saying that he believes that truth seekers from all faiths might be in Heaven. Some people have ripped into what he said (example), but thankfully some have also supported him.
Or what about the Rev. Dave Tomlinson (one of the leaders at the forefront of the house-church movement in the UK in the eighties), who declared himself as “post-evangelical”, and has been hauled over the coals for it (‘heresy’ was of course mentioned!)
Or how about Dr. Tony Campolo, who earlier this year declared his support for welcoming gay people into the Church. Naturally, his change of heart and his resulting theology has been largely rejected by the conservative church, and he has of course been ‘stoned’ by the Pharisees in various places.
And there’s Rev. Steve Chalke, a British Baptist minister who has (fairly) recently declared his support of monogamous same-sex marriages. He’s also declared that he believes the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. And, oh guess what, been rejected by people for it. Not everyone, but still there’s been people who reject his message.
There’s Pastor Rob Bell, who, in declaring his wrestling with the concept of a loving God sending people to eternal damnation, has questioned the established doctrine of hell. He’s done it in his book, Love Wins – and the reaction against him was so extraordinary that the other day I heard one preacher using Rob’s name as a sort of byword for heresy. Something like, ‘This is the sort of thing that is said by the likes of Rob Bell‘. What an ignorant attitude….
Do I detect a pattern here? Men of God, who up until they declared either what they have been wrestling with for years, or what God has just shown them, have been ‘celebrated’, welcomed, had people flock to see them – these people suddenly become personae non gratae and are shunned by the Church – or at least that part of it that is deaf to what God is saying!
The thing is that because a speaker says something you don’t like, you suddenly turn on them like enemies, and everything they have said in the past that you have agreed with, that has blessed you, suddenly counts for absolutely nothing and vanishes like a soap bubble. You liked them well enough when they visited your church, didn’t you? They haven’t changed, you know!
Actually that’s a really a silly way of dealing with differences! It is the way that dysfunctional families deal with those who do not agree entirely with the family line – they get shunned and ostracised until they give in, fit in and agree.
Tell me: Is it better for a Christian leader to lie about how he really feels or thinks on a subject, and be accepted; or is it better for them to own up and risk rejection? What sort of leader would you prefer? I know which sort of leader I would rather work with!
Rejection of the prophets is what religious people do. It is in fact what happened to Jesus. And in the Scripture that introduces this blog post, Jesus was speaking to the religious authorities of His time, and part of their problem was that of resistance to change. People who were so entrenched in their religious position – some, partly because of their graven image of God – that they could not recognise the true move of God’s Spirit that was happening right in front of their eyes. And so they crucified Him.
In the opposite way to how these people did, we need to be careful to discern the Voice of the Spirit in our time; we have an advantage nowadays that people before Jesus came didn’t have: we have the Spirit. Remember it is the natural human tendency to drift towards a settled religious complacency where acceptance by God is felt to be achieved somehow by our actions, rather than through Jesus. This is simply not what God intends at all!
And always the same ‘proof-texts’ are trotted out. Things about people ‘following the desires of their own hearts’, how the heart is ‘deceitful above all things’, about people with ‘itching ears’. To be honest, it’s samey and boring, and these critics would make terrible chess players because of their predictability. Always these people forget the New Creation, the new heart, the Mind of Christ, that these prophetic believers are and have. Do they really think that these prophets just suddenly changed their minds from their previously firmly-held positions just on a whim?
No. These modern-day prophets have spent a lifetime listening to God, which, remember, is what got them their reputation in the first place. To set at naught the sayings of these people, just on the basis of it being different from what platitudes you might expect to hear, is not a sensible course of action. These people know the Voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27). Sure, disagree with them if you like; that is your right and your prerogative. But do not stone them. These people are not the enemy. To ignore them completely is folly. To reject them could well be to close your ears to what God is saying.
Resistance to change that is of the flesh or even the enemy is only right. Resistance to change that is of God, however, is futile and ultimately counterproductive (Acts 5:38-39, where Gamaliel says, “…if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”).
So, the take-home message is that it’s time Christians stopped shunning great Christian leaders like these just because they say something we don’t like. So, for example, let’s say we loved this guy when he came to our church to speak – well, he hasn’t changed; maybe his message has, but isn’t that all the more reason to listen to him? These men do not simply change their minds overnight; if they have changed their belief system, there must be a pretty good reason, and that reason – based on their previous reputation – will be worth listening to.
Listen up, Church!!