“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”
There have been a series of events I’ve found out about over the last week or week and a half that have really shaken me. I won’t go into much detail about it here, but I’ll try to explain what I’ve learned.
I was in a difficult situation about 2 years ago in which I took a very hard stance and wound up splitting from a church that I loved. I didn’t have any real choice and, to this day, I believe my decision was Biblical. I know that I did the right thing. But some things have come to light that made me really re-evaluate what happened. I didn’t understand why events worked out as they did, and I told God as much. He responded by exposing a huge area of sin in my life. It’s something I repented of privately, but now I should do so publicly.
The prayer went something like this (obviously I’m writing as though God spoke audibly; He didn’t. This is just roughly what He impressed on me.)
Me: I took a stand for what I knew was right. And look how bad things turned out!
God: Who told you to take a firm stand?
Me: It’s right there in the Bible! I know that my position was right!
God: That’s not what I asked. Who told you to take a firm stand?
Me: Oh. I see what You’re saying. I told me to.
It’s important to follow this carefully so as not to misunderstand me; it’s a little bit confusing.
I’ve prayed to God that if He would simply show me where to stand, I’d stand there firmly. I’d be militantly right, left, or even in the middle. I was sincere about it. I was, and am, willing to hold any belief that God shows me to be true. My position has been that, wherever the Bible clearly speaks, I will stand firmly – even if it appears to be a really insignificant issue. And if the Bible doesn’t clearly speak, I won’t take a firm stand, even on issues that appear to be very significant. (Sometimes I think the Bible is clearer on an issue than others do, though.)
In all this taking firm stands, I missed something. I was willing to let God dictate my beliefs. What I (unconsciously) was not willing to let Him dictate was my level of (in)tolerance when holding that view, which is an entirely independent factor. I was dictating that.
See, I told God that I’d firmly stand wherever He wanted me to. I did not tell Him that I’d stand where and how He wanted me to.
I’d made an idol of militancy. I would die on whatever hill God planted me on – not because I had any biblical reason for believing I should be firm there, but just because that’s what kind of guy I am. I’m a militant, intolerant kind of guy who likes to take bold stands and let the chips fall where they may. I’ll draw a line in the sand and not budge one inch from it. I was willing to let God show me where to draw the line, but not tell me how firmly to hold it.
I confessed to God that I was taking hard stands just because I wanted to take them, not because I really believed He wanted me to take them. I looked to His word in this area to find justification for militancy, not for instruction.
I want to point out that God did not convict me of being militant, nor has He clearly instructed me to be anything else. I may very well have had the right attitude, but motivation is at least as important as where you wind up. It was my motivation that was all wrong, not necessarily my stand.
I’m continuing to seek God’s direction in this area, and have learned some things from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the pastoral epistles (1 Tim, 2 Tim, Titus). I haven’t learned enough to have any consistent approach to how firmly I should stand, but I am learning some things. I’m no longer looking for verses to justify my militancy, but instead to teach me.
I may still wind up being a militant and intolerant near-fundamentalist, or maybe not. But I’m pulling down the idol of militancy for militancy’s sake. Whever I wind up, I intend for it to be because I’m acting on orders from above, and no longer from my own desires.