On my various social networks I subscribe to heretics, false teachers, dramatic teenagers, wicked sinners, edgy satire, and arrogant ‘Christians.’ On my bookshelves sit books by Rob Bell, Jacques Derrida, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Philip Pullman, Leo Tolstoy, and even J.K. Rowling. Now some of these persons have exponentially more merit than others, and I would even prefer reading what they’ve written over many bestsellers in the Christian bookstores (which are all too full of false teachers themselves). Even in my Spotify account, I follow such unsavory characters as Nicki Minaj, Jack Johnson, Lily Allen, and Macklemore. But this isn’t a confession and declaration of repentance. In fact I intend to continue paying attention to these people and others. But neither is this a request for you to follow suit: I do not know your tendencies toward sin, and which temptations would cause you to mistrust God. So instead, this is an explanation of my reasons.
I Do Not Approve of What They Write
Although it should be relatively obvious, I’ll say it clearly: as a general rule I do not approve and agree with what they write. However, as the old saying goes: even a broken clock is right twice a day. And those two statements give me enough reason to pay attention to what these people say. I receive daily emails from a LinkedIn Group that question the basic tenets of Christian faith, and deny them. I open my email in the morning and see questions like, “Do you believe Jesus is God?” and answers like, “No” or “Interesting question” or some strange hybrid of Buddhist ‘Christianity.’ Other questions include: “What would change if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead” (the overwhelming answer: nothing, and many denials that he did rise from the dead) –or- “How could Jesus reference Adam and Eve or Noah and the flood with authority?” (implying that we know these accounts are wholly false). I read such things and find them absurd and logically fallacious. But I still briefly read them. Why? Because…
1.) My heart grieves, and I know that when my heart ceases to grieve I am in danger of losing the heart of Jesus for the world
2.) My anger is kindled, and I know that when I cease to become angry I am in danger of compromising truth
3.) My mind is forced to defend and reconcile truths
4.) If I agree with what they’ve said, I must first examine myself and second learn humility in accepting truth from whatever its source
But my [Heresy] for Today LinkedIn Group isn’t the only one. (Thank my fiancée for that nickname.) All of us are friends with dramatic teenagers on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram and Twitter; we are frequently bombarded with desperate statements about friendship and silly statements about love. Does your heart grieve? Do you pray for them? And we all have ‘that friend’ who posts arrogant and insensitive statements about Christianity. Are you angered against pride and all evil? Do you pray for them? Do you pray for yourself, that you might not be like them? Or do you criticize them… and so become the very person you despised.
I’m aware that my modus operandi isn’t valid for everyone. The kids in my youth group would fall sway to the deceits couched in melody. Rocks dull and blunt blades, but they can also sharpen them if you use them correctly.
I Need to Be Reminded of What’s Alive in the World
Nearly all of my friends are believers. I hardly have a handful of unbelievers. So while most of my friends are encouraging and refreshing; while they can and do point me to the grace of God revealed in Christ… my life can become insular. Church on Sundays. Church on Wednesdays. Church peeps on the others. A churchly fiancée. All of this is good in its own right, but I can easily forget the insanity that wreaks havoc on the world at large. I see the world when I grocery shop, go on a date, drive in the car, but for the most part my imagination of the way life works is formed by the beautiful bride of Christ. Beautiful and desirable she is, but she is also incomplete. And I need to be reminded of what’s alive in the world. I need Lily Allen to tell me what goes through her mind when she hits the club or falls in love. I need Nietzsche to express the fatalistic nihilism that saturates so many minds. I need arrogant Christians to remind me that Jesus’ representatives often fail, and my unbelieving friends have probably been exposed to a few. I need Jehovah’s Witnesses to show me that they are offering a counterfeit gospel in almost the exact language I would use in a street evangelism conversation. I need dramatic teenagers to weep worldwide tears on Twitter so that I remember the 13 year olds I talk to on Wednesdays have a small picture of life and their position before God. I need these people to tell me that they don’t know Jesus so I can stop assuming that everybody is filled with peace and joy, struggling against sin, and looking forward to Jesus’ eschatological kingdom.
Perhaps your life is filled with worldly sinners, and these things would be unworthily burdensome. But perhaps your life is surrounded by Christians, and these things would be worthwhile to notice.