Christian Crank or Life-Giving Messenger from God

Not sure if you’ve noticed but there are a lot of cranks in the church of Christ. That would be splendid, if we ran like the early Model T’s that required cranking to get their engines revving. In my experience, though, church cranks are more likely to kill momentum than to inspire it.

Cranky church people have been memorialized in books, movies, prime time, late night television, and church lore as well. We’re well-versed in the stereotype of the sourpuss hard-wired to take issue with every issue. Until Jesus returns to take us home, cranks will walk and worship among us.

Cranks are popular with the evil one because in many ways, the powers of darkness get a two for one deal with them. First, organic to their own devices, they spin a congregation, committee, or communicator into a resource-wasting frenzy with a few, ill-timed, ill-spoken words. Second, the very specter of church cranks leaves the rest of us en garde, shields up at any hint of righteous criticism.

Dangerous, this, because our loving Father has warned us that we need to confront one another. We all need, at times, to receive correction, redirection, prayerful reflection, introspection or we’re likely to veer far off the narrow way that leads us to our Father’s great heart.

It’s the way of the world.

Our world, this outpost of glory, is an ever-pressing tide moving all things in the direction it’s fallen unless God intervenes. As much as we love Jesus, we’re susceptible, individually and corporately, to caving in, wandering off, compromising, or capitulating. It seems particularly dangerous to either be a lone believer or a believer en masse. Like Jonah alone or the nation of Israel at large, we can be tempted to run, rebel, or even worship a golden cow with breathtaking speed, especially when there’s a crowd around us with the same lame idea.

God had no sooner delivered the Israelites from Egypt (miraculously enough to inspire great Hollywood special effects) than they were looking around for other options for their affection. Moses went up on Sinai to meet with God and He “delayed to come down.” Well, you know how we humans are if we have to wait and wonder when you’re coming home!

The people pressured Aaron, Aaron who had stood elbow to elbow with Moses during all the miracles, they pressured him for a new god and he yielded to their demands, using the gold from their ears (they’d stopped listening to reason anyway) to fashion a cow that inspired a such a worship party God nearly wiped out the entire nation.

I love the way the ESV translates Exodus 32:25 Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies).” Moses doesn’t capitulate with the rebels. You can read the rest of Exodus 32 on your own time but suffice it to say he engaged in forceful confrontation of their sin.

We can all come up with some pretty strange ideas. We wrestle with fallen natures (though we are now redeemed) in a fallen world with a crafty enemy working overtime to trip us up. At any given moment, any one of us can veer off course so we have to have an understanding within the family of God that’s it’s okay to look one another in the eye and say, “Hey, you might want to check that thought, word, action, blog post, story idea, activity, life choice, worship song, new teaching, or status update with God’s Word and other mature believers. That looks like a step in the direction of breaking loose.”

No one wants to receive correction. I know I don’t enjoy it and in my younger days I feared it, ran from it, mocked it, and too often dismissed it. Having walked with Jesus over fifty years now though, I have to say, I invite it. Especially now as a writer who represents Jesus – I want someone to tell me if they think I’m wandering from truth.

Three Proverbs offer us guidance here, all from Proverbs 15: 31-33 “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.”

When someone writes me (as many of you do) to ask clarification for something I’ve posted, I’m grateful, even if it feels like they’re maybe being picky. In my heart, I respond with gratitude that they care enough to let me know I may be going off track. Usually, it’s simply that I’ve written badly and need to work harder at being clear, but I’m not immune to falling prey to bad teaching or falling in love with sound of my own voice, at risk of elevating creative speculation over truth. I know I need people who are careful and cautious in their understanding of God’s Word to regularly prod me to the same high standard. Sometimes even the baseless complaints of a crank are the vehicle God uses to keep me in the narrow lane.

Too many preachers, teachers, authors, bloggers, or highly visible Christians these days have broken loose and they’ve been surrounded by Aaron’s who helped them melt their gold into idols instead of Moses’s who set them straight with the hard truth. Worse yet, they take others with them when they run off track and our enemies have a field day at the sight of God’s church derailed. I never want to be that writer so please, I invite you to question or confront me at any hint that I’ve wandered from sound doctrine and truth.

Loving one another sometimes means saying hard things to one another and hearing hard things from one another. But, that’s okay. We’re the church. We’re designed for hard things. We can take it because Jesus makes us able to stand. We lead with grace. We’re emboldened by love. We embrace the freedom hard-won for us on the cross and our lives are sealed for eternity so we can withstand the loving confrontation of another believer if it keeps us from breaking loose to follow the worthless idols that seem to leap from fire in a heartbeat.

Not everyone confronter is a crank. Sometimes a confronter is a rescue ring tossed by Jesus to pull us in from a vicious riptide of heresy. Sometimes an exhorter, even a clumsy, hurtful one, is a messenger from on High.

Crank or lifesaver? God can use either one to instruct us if we receive it all with grace and take it to God in prayer to sort through and process.  So, let me declare today this is a safe blog for you to question or confront. Let’s be unafraid as communicators and as Christians to hear the truth as well as to speak it.

Breaking loose from the bonds of sin is freedom. Breaking loose from the teaching of Jesus Christ is the path of destruction. Let’s be there for one another to make the difference.

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