As believers, we need to be discerning about the spiritual and “biblical” teachings to which we expose ourselves. I put “biblical” in quotes because some so-called biblical teachings actually contradict the Bible – reinforcing the importance of discernment. False teachers have existed from the first century of the church onward. Read the New Testament; believers were told to contend for the faith. Rest assured that this is not a new problem!
What is new…is the many ways that false teachings can now be spread: the invention of the printing press led to mass distribution of books, the TV to messages going out to millions over the airwaves, and the internet allows for all kinds of dissemination. Of course, this is bad and good, as much good teaching and the truths of the gospel can be spread in these ways as well.
Discernment is of critical importance in our day. Yet, there can be “danger” in discernment. Discernment and concern for truth can deteriorate into carping criticism and heresy hunting. We can end up always on the attack and suspicious of everything. We can become petty, jumping on trivial things that would best be overlooked or ignored. Not every slightly incorrect statement needs to be addressed by us.
Discernment needs to be matched with wisdom and love.
Your spouse leaving a wet towel on the bed or dirty socks on the floor does not merit the same response as them committing adultery. Right? (haha) Yet, some can treat a wet spiritual towel as though the person denied the Trinity or tenets of the Apostle’s Creed.
There are some discerning people that I now essentially ignore because they always seem to be ranting against something. They have lost me. Sadly, I know they have lost others as well – people who actually needed to hear the shared concerns. And that can be the issue: rather than sharing a concern, they go for the jugular. Instead of taking a more gracious or diplomatic approach, they immediately use extreme language. “The teaching is poison!” There are times that strong language may be necessary, but not all the time.
Can you put yourself in another’s shoes?? Think of your favorite Christian author. Imagine someone abruptly saying that your favorite author’s teaching is…poison, pure deception, and dangerous! Are you going to listen? More likely you’ll be turned off, possibly feel attacked, view them as nutty or extreme, or go on the defense. But if the person takes a more gracious approach, you’ll be more likely to give them an ear.
Being diplomatic or gracious does not mean you are failing to take a stand for truth. I find that when discussing controversial issues, it is helpful to begin where you agree. Find something you actually like or appreciate about the said teacher or teachings. Then bring up your concerns.
Don’t misunderstand, there is a time for stronger approaches.
But don’t pull the Jesus card please. “Even Jesus got mad, turned over tables, and said sharp things!” Yes, he did. But Jesus did not behave that way all the time or even most of the time. Jesus used a wide variety of tactics and methods when dealing with people.
Lets pray that, like Jesus, our discernment is matched with wisdom and love.