A Sermon about Anti-Christs
I know I’ve hardly wrtten at all this month, but life has been unusually busy with my new position at work and the added activities I have been doing on the weekends (both of which have been very good for me, but not conducive to blog writing!). So I won’t say I’m back to writing on a regular basis, I’ll just say that I’m writing whenever I have the words and the time. This might be monthly, or weekly, or multiple times a week. It just depends.
Anyway, today what I want to write about is a revelation I had while visiting a very dear friend of mine last weekend. As you may know if you read many of my blog posts about church, I have quite the love-hate relationship with it. In fact, with the exception of last Sunday when I went to church with my friend, I hadn’t attended an actual church service in about a month and a half (I’ve just been going to Sunday school instead). I’ve just been feeling quite disillusioned in general, and I’ve found that going to church often makes me feel frustrated instead of fulfilled, so I just haven’t been going at all.
So that’s my context. Now for my friend’s context. She’d grown up going to a tiny United Methodist church her whole life, and found that it did not meet her needs for spiritual sustenance and sound teaching. She has found all of that at the church she is attending now, and she is even considering becoming a member. She is s grateful to have found the church that she has, and feels blessed to be included there.
The sermon on Sunday was on the passage in 1 John 2 that talks about how the church at that time had “anti-christs” in its midst, and how the believers must be wary of such teachings. The pastor went on to talk about how we today must be wary as well, and to denounce as “anti-christs” anyone who teaches ideas contrary to the gospel.
This is an important message, to be sure. But I started bristling and becoming defensive when the pastor offered an example of an “anti-christ” which I didn’t all think fit the bill, then proceeded to offer other examples of people whose counsel Christians ought to shun, all of which I thought were problematic.
That’s all I’ll say about the sermon, but suffice it to say that I listened to it with a terribly judgmental spirit, resisting the pastor’s words even though the over-arching point—Christians should cling to the truth of the Gospel and be wary of those whose ideas run contrary to it—was a sound one.
Anyway, I voiced all these grievances to my friend on our drive home, and she ended up telling me that she felt hurt that I was so antagonistic toward the pastor’s ideas, because she believed in his message. I apologized, and we were fine after that.
But our discussion—and my reaction to the pastor—got me thinking. I don’t even know what kind of Christian I am any more. I’m the kind of Christian who walks into a sanctuary with my arms folded metaphorically, with a mind that is already filtering the pastor’s words with the lens of my own experience and ideas and my own understanding of God’s Word. I’m the kind of Christian who analyzes the living daylights out of pastors whose beliefs are generally conservative, as this pastor’s was, yet who drinks in the sermons of more progressive pastors (for example, I listened to an Adam Hamilton podcast sermon on the drive up to visit my friend, and his sermon was basically the opposite of the one I heard at my friend’s church, and I really thought it was a good sermon!).
Here’s the truth. In reality, I’m the kind of Christian who hasn’t truly felt at home in an evangelical church for a good long while. I recognize that this is partially because of my own attitude, and my own bitter heart, and my own antagonistic disposition that is wary anytime a pastor uses the phrases “biblical principles” and “God’s truth” and such like that in the same sentence. But I don’t know what to do with that just yet, because I also don’t want to be the sort of Christian who blindly accepts the word of every pastor who tells me this is what it means to be faithful to the Gospel, and this is what it means to be an anti-christ.
So my revelation was two-fold: I realized for the first time that I’ve got an attitude problem that needs to change if I’m ever going to feel comfortable with a body of believers. And I realized I need to remember what my friend and her roommate wisely told me: God doesn’t separate people based on conservative or progressive beliefs. He judges us by our hearts, and while this doesn’t give us carte blanche to accept harmful beliefs, it should give us pause and remind us that in the end God’s judges the hearts of men, not us. If I remember that, I think I might find it a little easier to get along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and not be so hard on them and their beliefs.