I am not very tall. In school, I was always one of the shortest people in the class. As a male, this caused me to have an inferiority complex. In the dog eat dog world of middle & high school, I often felt the need to prove my bravery to my fellow classmates by picking fights with intimidating individuals. The fact that I had an older brother with a lot of friends helped me feel more brave in this process. I certainly had what is commonly known as little man syndrome. Out of fear of being hurt and intimidated, I attempted to hurt & intimidate others. On more than one occasion, however, this fear based mentality caused me to get myself into conflicts that were way over my head. I learned a valuable lesson from this experience.
Fear will cause you to pick fights that you have no business fighting.
In the same way, religious fear will cause you to fight a fight that you have no business fighting while feeling a false sense of nobility and righteousness in the process. Some of the greatest atrocities committed in history have been committed by folks fueled by religious indignation and the need to defend the faith. Just a casual glance at the history of christendom will confirm this unfortunate reality.
Religious fear fueled military conflicts like the crusades & the inquisitions.
Religious fear fueled and attempted to justify the persecution and murder of perceived heretics by the hands of highly revered protestant reformers. (click HERE to find out more about the murder of the Anabaptists) Of course all of this has been done in the name of orthodoxy and purity in Jesus’ name. This kind of poisonous thinking not only affects large groups of people in history, it even poisons the closest of our relationships in our day to day lives.
Offense Trumps Defense
I love the game of football. It has been said that championships are won or lost on defense. While that may be true in the world of competitive sports, it does not ring true with life in Jesus Christ. The aim of defense is to stop and prevent, but the aim of offense is to move forward and acquire.
In the gospels we see Jesus on offense, continually expressing the life and love of His Father. In the gospels, we also see another group. This other group felt threatened. Some of them legitimately thought they needed to protect others from this false teacher, and others were simply worried about losing their influence to a person they had no control over. Regardless of their motivation, this kind of a religious mindset was fertile ground for the murderous spirit that put Jesus to death, and that has put to death countless others in His name.
A Lesson From A Wise Jewish Sage
Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, His disciples were functioning on offense, so to speak. Their mouths were filled with words about this resurrected Christ, and they were expressing the life and love of this Christ. As you can imagine, the same group that opposed Jesus also opposed them. They wanted to silence them.
There is a particular account recorded in the book of Acts that details a situation in which the disciples of Jesus were arrested and beaten. The religious leaders even wanted to have them put to death as well. At just the right moment, however, Gamaliel (a wise Jewish pharisee involved in the discussion) spoke some incredible wisdom about the situation. He asked that the disciples be put outside so he could have a heart to heart conversation with those leaders who were seeking to ‘protect’ the people from what they considered to be false teaching from the disciples.
Gamaliel simply gave them a history lesson. He reminded them about the numerous times in the past in which others falsely claimed to be the Messiah. None of those movements were able to sustain themselves in the long run. Gamaliel told them that they had no need to worry. If a message is false, it will not have longevity. If it is true, however, all their attempts to silence the message would be futile. Not only would they be unsuccessful in their attempt to silence the message, they would actually find themselves fighting against God. Consider his words here:
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. (Acts 5:34-39, NIV)
Brothers and sisters, this is good advice! Countless heartache could be avoided if we’ll just take heed to this warning. This advice will free you from taking part in the slander and murder of others. This advice will help you move from defense to offense. If you have a greater revelation of Jesus Christ (love), let this love speak for Himself. In time, a truly accurate revelation of Jesus Christ will overcome all that is not of Him. You can rest in this reality.
You are now free to love!
RELATED READING: The Sin Of Inerrancy Assery