Remember when we were little kids…sitting all weekend long in a “Hunters Education” class? Trying to sit still, trying to stop staring at all of the guns lined up on the front table, trying to not look around…and trying to figure out why all of the older men were wearing ‘blaze orange’ hats. I remember…I remember listening to our instructor talk about many different subjects. What he said…I have no idea…but I remember being there. Years later, when my kids sat through their weekend, I actually heard and understood what the instructor said. My kids, on the other hand, have no idea what he said. They were staring at the guns lined up on the front table, trying not to look around and probably trying to figure out why the older men were all wearing camouflage in June.
The instructor taught the very basics about ‘Hunters Safety’. Especially as it pertains to firearms. I’m sure he understood ‘firearms’ in a much deeper way, however, he never veered into the world of mathematical formulas and ballistics or line-of-sight range finding and optics. He kept it simple because he understood his audience. Now, there is a lesson for us. Not only the ‘keep it simple’ part…but the ‘understand our audience’ part.
Sharing the Good News about Christ’s love for mankind with the unsaved, is a much simpler message, than discussing the oneness and distinctness of the three members of the Holy Trinity. The audience for these conversations is completely different. When we witness…we need to understand our role in the process of ‘salvation’…we are the sower. That’s it. We sow…and then we let the Holy Spirit weigh on, push on and pull on their heart. While the Spirit can overcome any of our sowing blunders…simpler is better. Discussing the Trinity…involves theology books, philosophy books, biology books and much hand waving and time at the dry erase board!!! Simpler is not really possible if “sharpening iron” is the intent.
Do you remember having a conversation with someone of faith…your Pastor, an Elder, your buddy who was raised in a different denomination…and the conversation caused your stomach to knot up and chills began to run up and down your spine? Do you remember wondering about that persons salvation…? Do you remember thinking, “Such and Such might be a false prophet! What should I do? Somebody should tell somebody before somebody gets influenced into being somebody that…that…they shouldn’t be!” Ever think anything like that? Ever throw words around like ‘false prophet’ and ‘stumbling block’…? Well…I have. My discernment meter gets better as I grow and age in this thing we call faith. I have sounded the horn of alarm in the past. Hopefully, I will in the future (when warranted), however, the backlash of sounding the alarm has caused me to dig into these labels a bit and provide some ‘much needed’ insight (hopefully).
It is possible, that the biggest mistake your Pastor, Elder, buddy from another denomination made…was not understanding his audience. Lets read this passage from Romans 12: 3-6, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…”
Paul says that God has given each one of us a ‘measure of faith’ to be used in unity with the whole body. Meaning…we may be a toe…or an elbow…or an ear, but we must all work together for the overall body to move and function as God wills. This relates to ‘understanding your audience’ in this manner…the toe needs to know when the foot is going to move in order to provide 1/5 of the grip and coordination for the step. The toe doesn’t need to know what the hands are doing at the moment. The ‘measure of faith’ handed out to the toe is presumably less than what is handed out to the cerebral cortex. Now…I realize that all analogies break down at some level, but, Paul chose a great analogy to illustrate the importance of ALL of us. However, conversations between toes and cerebral cortex’s can produce “hard feelings” if the toe gets confused…or…the cerebral cortex thinks he is talking to the eyes. Those conversations sometimes result in whispered words of ‘false prophet’ or ‘stumbling block’.
In all fairness, every Christian serious about his/her service to Jesus Christ has been a stumbling block to someone else. It is unavoidable and sometimes done on purpose. In Isaiah 8: 13-14 it says, “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
In other words, Jesus Christ was to become a stumbling block to both Israel and Judah. If we are living and growing in faith, we aren’t getting more than our measure from our Father above, but we are striving and surrendering to get only what He intended. Our differing measures and our differing levels along our differing walks…all work to keep us in communion with each other…depending on each other. This means we will challenge and stretch each other “spiritually” to help propel each of us along our differing paths. This, at times, will result in stumbling blocks and disagreements.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
My measure of faith is nothing without the accompanying love of the Holy Spirit whom lives inside of me. Looking back…I’ve known many “Christian teachers” who taught above my ability to understand. Regrettably, it was easy for me to apply labels…when I really needed to apply time. I was still learning that the bullet travels beyond the target while they were teaching altitude and wind affects on the ballistics of the bullet. I needed to see the “accompanying love of the Spirit” and buckle down to learn from my betters. Recognizing the inherent love now…although I missed it then…causes me to think of all the “Stumbling Prophets” and “False Blocks” I’ve known.
With a little wisdom, I realize, I’m better for the knowing.