Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Look Twice

Imagine meeting someone who -- everyday, without fail -- wore at least one piece of clothing adorned with the logo of the Toronto Blue Jays. On Casual Fridays, sometimes they would show up to work in a complete Jays uniform.

Imagine talking with this person at lunch, and discovering that they have memorized every players' statistics for the entire roster.

Imagine remarking, "Wow, you are the ultimate Toronto Blue Jays fan!", and then reeling back from their instant fury and sense of offense.

"I am NOT a member of the Toronto Blue Jays Fan Club!" they growl through gritted teeth, fists clenched as if they were about to use physical violence to underline their reaction to your observation.

Taking a few steps back (for safety's sake), you point out that -- even now -- they are wearing the complete uniform, and that they have just recited an entire World Series' worth of memorabilia about the Blue Jays. And they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they are a fan of the Blue Jays.

And then suddenly, you have an epiphany: They're telling the truth.

And they're also lying (or at least in serious denial).

The Truth (as they see it): they haven't "officially" joined the literal Fan Club. They have no membership card, and never did.

The Truth (as verified by objective reality): their zealot-like obsession with all things Blue Jay-related sure fits the functional description of "fan".
Admittedly, this is a far-fetched metaphor, but sometimes saying things outlandishly helps to get the point across (camel through the eye of a needle, for example?).

I have met people like this. I remember vividly the wild-eyed outrage of one leader, denying loudly, "I am NOT part of the Shepherding Movement!" Yet, all of his teaching, actions, and the authors he appealed to in support of his "being under covering/authority" and "I am the voice of God" approach to leadership were straight out of the Shepherding Movement. The spiritual abuse he was causing was corroborated by many witnesses.

He was telling the truth: he wasn't "officially" a part of the Shepherding Movement (obviously, since it had ceased to exist "officially" back in the 1980's). He held no official membership card. And he was being deceptive: his need to control had led him into embracing, promoting, and demanding compliance with the classic teachings of the Shepherding Movement. It was how he'd been mentored, and he was passing it along (which is why Luke 6:40 is both an encouraging promise and also a sobering warning from Jesus).

Just because someone protests that they aren't "officially" part of a movement known for its errors and abuses, doesn't mean they're off the hook, if they are still teaching and practicing those things. You can't get good fruit from bad roots.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:15-20)
In other words, look twice before wandering into traffic.

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