Everyone is someone’s heretic. At least, that’s my opinion these days. Whenever someone calls you a false teacher or a heretic, what they really mean to say is: “Your theology isn’t the same as mine. I can’t be wrong about anything, therefore you must be a heretic.”
What these people don’t realize is that, to someone else, they are the heretic.
See, Christians disagree on all sorts of things. This is why there are thousands of different denominations around the globe, and across the nation.
Yes, we all use the same Holy Bible. Yes, we all believe that our interpretation of those scriptures is the correct one. Yes, we typically consider those with different theology to be “abhorrent” or “heretical.”
This is precisely why our house church family decided 11 years ago not to adopt any official statement of faith. Because we knew that, historically, every single time Christians attempted to bring unity by establishing doctrine what they actually did was create more division. [See the thousands of different Christian denominations around the globe mentioned earlier].
So, I’m pretty used to being called a heretic. It’s actually why I co-host a podcast with Jamal Jivanjee and Matthew Distefano called “The Heretic Happy Hour” – because we’ve all been called heretics by so many people that it’s starting to become a joke.
A few days ago, my friend and brother in Christ, Ricky, posted this meme above on his Facebook wall. As you can see, it’s pretty dramatic. Plus, it encourages everyone else to label me as a false teacher and a dangerous heretic, too. [Even if they really have no idea why they should do this].
For the record, my friend Ricky considers me a heretic and a false teacher because I don’t accept Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory [a relatively new theology that only arrived on the scene a few hundred years ago], and also because I don’t agree with his view on homosexuality [he accepts the modern English insertion of the word “homosexual” which was added in 1946, and I reject that political edit in favor of the actual Greek words for “effeminate” and “pedophilia.”]
So, we have a disagreement on theology. That’s ok with me, honestly. I don’t personally believe that Christians need to have agreement on doctrines in order to have unity.
Not only have I experienced this reality for the last 11 years in our house church – where people who disagreed on all sorts of theologies sat side-by-side every week and never argued or divided over doctrines – but I’m convinced that this is what Paul was referring to when he said that our unity was “in Christ” and not in our agreement on theology, or anything else.
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26-28)
The problem is, my friend Ricky believes that I cannot possibly be an actual Christian. Why? Because my view of the atonement is different from his own.
I know that’s pretty crazy, right? But, sadly, it’s the truth.
For him, and sadly for many, many other Christians, the Gospel has become more about having the right information about God. So, if your information about God is different from mine then you are a heretic, and you are also not actually a Christian because you got some of the answers wrong on the theology test I just gave you.
But, the Gospel is NOT about having the right information about God. The Gospel is not about information – it’s about Transformation.
Transformation isn’t dependent upon information. Transformation is what happens when we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. This can take place independent of the quality or accuracy of the information about God we may have in our brains.
I don’t know about you, but my opinions and doctrines and beliefs about God and other theological ideas have changed over the years. There are things I believe today that I did not believe 5 or 10 years ago. So, whereas my beliefs may fluctuate, my connection to God through Christ never does. It remains constant regardless of my ideas and opinions about theology.
As my friend Joshua Lawson once said: “The funny thing about my worldview is that, no matter how many times it changes, I’m always right.”
Now, my friend Ricky has gone out of his way to smear me. He wants everyone to know what a heretic and dangerous false teacher I am.
How should I respond?
I love him. I pray for him. I genuinely pray and ask the Lord to bless Ricky’s socks off. I pray for his marriage, his children, his finances, his relationships, and his connection to God.
At first, I may not “feel” like doing this, but in obedience to Jesus – who specifically commanded me to do exactly this whenever anyone accuses me, curses me, or seeks to harm me – I simply start to pray for my friend, Ricky.
Eventually, as I pray a blessing over my friend, the Holy Spirit begins to soften my heart, change my attitude, and bring me into alignment with the Father’s heart for Ricky.
God loves Ricky so much it hurts. And as I begin to pray for Ricky, I start to feel that love, too.
So, now I start to pray even harder for my friend. I actually MEAN these words that, earlier, I was only saying in obedience to Christ. Now, I totally share God’s heart for this man and I really, really do want the Lord to bless him in every possible way.
This is how we respond to those who call us heretics and false teachers: we love them.
We do not respond with the same spirit but with the opposite spirit.
Why? Because only love will change the world, and only Christ’s love will change me.
I’m committed to that Gospel of Transformation.
How about you?
Keith Giles is a former pastor who left the pulpit 11 years ago to start a church that gives away 100% of the offering to the poor in their community.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.
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