Yesterday, I read a verse for my study that always causes me to cringe. Not for any reason you might suspect, but because the answer to a false teaching I fell for was right there in front of my face, if only I’d have picked up my Bible and read it.
1 John 2: 5b, 6 NRSV
By this we may be sure that we are in him; whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
In the false teaching, which I easily fell for, I was taught that not only was it impossible to be like Christ, it wasn’t even required of us. The question tapped in the back of my mind, and I suppressed it. I suppressed it because this was a good way to excuse the behavior of the so-called Christians around me.
It was also a good way to justify anything I did in order to survive the abuse. If it’s not commanded of me to be like Christ, not to even try, then anything goes. Oh, sure, I probably shouldn’t kill anyone, but, from talking to others and watching a lot of what happened in the denomination, and continues to happen even now as one by one the leaders fall, it really was a “do whatever I want and get away with it ‘badge'” (Sorry, my favorite line from Transformers.)
The peace that was promised by chucking Evangelical “legalism” never came. Instead, my fears increased, particularly my fear of whether or not I was saved. The pastors assured me that my fears proved I was saved, because the unsaved don’t even think about such things.
Years later, after my conversion, I would read in Scripture, the same Scripture that was available to me while I was under any and all previous false teachings, again in 1 John:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
1 John 4:18
I know there are a lot of people who are annoyed with the way I question everything, and by everything, I mean every single last thing that passes in front of me, every teaching from the pulpit, from a book, from anyone, even friends. But there was a time I didn’t question anything. I just dutifully obeyed as I’d been raised to do, rebelling only when I had a sure backing and people I could link myself to who had the same opinions.
Now, I will continue to question everything, whether I think I have any support or not, because to not question is to invite false teaching into your life, and I will not knowingly allow myself to do that again.