“Religion is the most dangerous energy source known to humankind. The moment a person (or government or religion or organization) is convinced that God is either ordering or sanctioning a cause or project, anything goes. The history, worldwide, of religion-fueled hate, killing and oppression is staggering. The biblical prophets are in the front line of those doing something about it. The biblical prophets continue to be the most powerful and effective voices ever heard on this earth for keeping religion honest, humble, and compassionate. Prophets sniff out injustice, especially injustice that is dressed up in religious garb. They sniff it out a mile away. Prophets see through hypocrisy, especially hypocrisy that assumes religious pose.”
– Eugene Peterson, introduction to Amos in The Message, NavPress, 2003.
Some random thoughts from me, take them or leave them! We may read that excerpt from Peterson and think that more “prophetic voices” are needed today. In other words, we agree that the misuse of religion and religious hypocrisy is a problem that needs to be called out. But therein lies the problem, and we are guilty of so many things…
Remember that most of the biblical prophets brought messages to God’s people, those dressed in religious garb. Yet we rarely see ourselves as the problem, instead it is others with the problem.
Remember that the prophets were NOT popular (at all!). So…if you are liking a prophetic voice – that may not necessarily be a good sign. There were false prophets in the Old Testament, and the people liked the false prophets because they told them what they wanted to hear or what lined up with their own ideas.
So…the very nature of a prophetic voice is that it challenges, convicts, unsettles. It tells us what we’d rather not hear. How open are we to tough words of warning, caution, and conviction? Too often, not so much. We prefer the false prophetic voice.
We are also prone to convince ourselves that God is ordering or sanctioning a cause or project that we feel strongly about, and then – indeed – anything goes. It is possible that our cause is actually a godly or just one, but when we get so focused on “God being on our side” it is all too easy to slide into arrogance and ungodly methods.
Historically, revival or renewal movements arose out of a deep humility about our need (as believers) before God. Often we say that we want revival, but I don’t think we want to take the path to get there.
Your thoughts welcome.
Sue Cass said:
If it doesn’t line up with His Word = false prophet!
Eugene Peterson was right. In order for us to be useful for God, we must be honest. humble, compassionate, and willing to change.
Ashley Gatewood said:
So true! Prophets strip Kings of their kingdoms (mene mene tekel upharsin) and can be seen at the bottom of your well; they pout under the shade of vines when God saves a city at their word and are fed by angels in dark caves wishing to die. I love them. Thanks for sharing.