When are Christians going to get serious about the problem of apostates in their midst?
- Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr.
My love for science fiction has never waned. I’ll never forget running home from a neighbor’s house in the early sixties after having just watched the 1953 movie version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds with Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. I was sure a tripod heat ray was zeroing in on me or that a three fingered Martian (with suction cups on the end of each digit) was reaching out to put its filthy hand on my shoulder as it did with Ms. Robinson in that shattered old creepy house!
My all-time favorite sci-fi movie, though, is John Carpenter’s The Thing (and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 prequel by the same title). The premise of the movie is that an alien is found in the Antarctic ice, thaws out, comes back to life, and begins killing off members of a scientific research station. The twist is that it imitates the life form it kills so that it looks exactly like the original. You can’t tell the difference between the alien imitation and the original person who is now dead. You can imagine the suspicion and distrust that scenario produces.
What do you do when the monster looks exactly like its latest victim? Famed movie maker Steven Spielberg once said, “Every science fiction movie I have ever seen, any one that’s worth its weight in celluloid, warns us about things that ultimately come true.”
I am reminded of the real life horrors of combat when the enemy combatants hide among civilians refusing to wear uniforms identifying themselves as soldiers. Vietnam was America’s first taste of this (on a large scale). We saw it subsequently in the Gulf War and are now seeing it in acts of Muslim terrorism as people who pass themselves off as ordinary citizens suddenly take control of jetliners crashing them into buildings or walking nonchalantly into businesses and even bars who then brandish firearms and start shooting civilians indiscriminately. What do you do when evil successfully passes itself off as good?
One theme shared by nearly every important figure in the New Testament has to do with being prepared for wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Matt.7:15). Jesus spoke often about false prophets, false teachers, and false christs. Paul, James, John, and Peter all wrote of the dangers of not rooting out smooth talking heretics from the midst of the Church. Perhaps the short twenty-five verse epistle attributed to Jude draws the starkest contrast.
Following his brief one sentence greeting Jude launches his first missile aimed directly at the subject of false leadership within the Church:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (vv.3-4).
Essentially, Jude was saying that his intent was to write to them about some aspect of what it means to be saved (what a tragedy that we’ll never know his original intent in this life) but upon learning that those he was writing to were doing nothing about false teachers in their midst decided to scrap that idea and just talk about acknowledging and dealing with apostasy.
Have Christians become so spiritually dull that we cannot discern the monster(s) in our midst? Jude thought so. And he wasn’t the only one either (see 1 Cor. 3:1-2, Hebrews 5:11, and Eph. 4:18 to name only a few)! Jesus thoroughly lambasted the churchgoers in the Thyatiran church for turning a blind eye to a false prophetess amongst them (Rev. 2:18-28). Or, is it that we just don’t care what our religious leaders are saying as long as they preface and conclude their remarks by reminding us that “God is love”?
Apostasy is one of the most warned about issues in the New Testament and yet I’ve barely heard any church leader from any denomination acknowledge that the Church is rife with this spiritual cancer!
We’ve got church and denominational leaders unashamedly professing that God calls people into homosexual relationships because He couldn’t possibly object to two people who love each other romantically consummating their relationship in marriage. They smile while they say it and even officiate their “weddings.” This, despite the fact that nowhere in the Bible is sin transformed by God’s love. People are transformed by His love as is evidenced by their turning away from sin, but sin is never made good.
Yet hardly is there a peep from the household of faith as church leaders continue to conform the Body of Christ into the image of culture and society. Jude cries out to us through the centuries “appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”! Isn’t it interesting that he clarified which version of “the faith” he was writing about? Yeah, the one “that was once for all delivered…” That one. Not the one that ordains a lesbian as a pastor and then consecrates her as a bishop after she marries her lesbian lover.
Comparatively speaking the New Testament addresses baptism only fleetingly compared to the issue of dealing with apostasy and yet entire denominations and church requirements have been built around the former while little to nothing is ever proclaimed about the latter. Check it out for yourself. Look up how many times Jesus spoke about baptism and how many times He warned us about false teachers/prophets/christs.
When are Christians going to get serious about the problem of apostates in their midst? When are we going to understand that “the faith” is a reflection of the holiness of God and as such deserves to be protected and defended (to the death if necessary) by each and every Christian?
Go ahead, roll your eyes at the sheer ludicrousness of a wolf passing itself off as a sheep in the flock and in front of the shepherd, no less. It’s about as likely as an alien perfectly imitating a human being so that a coworker wouldn’t even know it. Or, a lifelong churchgoer not batting an eye at that spiritual leader “who long ago w[as] designated for this condemnation…who pervert[s] the grace of our God into sensuality…” Yeah, like that could ever happen.