"Dear friends, DO NOT BE ASTONISHED that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, SO THAT WHEN HIS GLORY IS REVEALED you may also rejoice and be glad. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you."
The human condition is something we all consider in one way or another. We do so because we are … well, human. When God first created Adam and Eve, humanity’s condition was ideal. The very first humans were placed by God in the perfect environment with an innocent nature that produced intimate fellowship with their Creator. It wasn’t that they were blissfully ignorant and therefore unable to experience reality. It was that they were humbly acceptant of the mystery of life with their Creator. Once they were convinced there was more they should know, they chose to disobey God’s instruction. Immediately the human condition changed. The ideal human existence was lost, and what was left was a blind, sinful, guilty, enslaved, morally-corrupt heart. The good news is that the same Creator God, that supreme salvage Artist who loves to restore things, has provided a way for us to be recreated to an even better condition! In the Son we can be redeemed and restored. The angels themselves long to look into human redemption. It is a glorious thought that we trust our souls to a faithful Creator. It is this marvelous and mysterious news that compels me to write these thoughts…
Headline: Even If It’s ‘Bonkers,’ Poll Finds Many Believe QAnon And Other Conspiracy Theories(News outlet: NPR)
A significant number of Americans believe misinformation … as well as conspiracy theories … according to a recent poll.
I’ve attempted to refrain from using too many words about it all, because it would inevitably lead to drowning out my angst. (Angst: a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.) Sometimes we speak so much, we lose our voice. And that voice may need to be heard and heeded. Sadly, people can’t read our tone, and there’s no font to communicate it. Therefore, we want to be humble and wise to use our words with great care and at the right time.
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is pure silver.
Pure silver is what I’m going for, friends. I wish there was a watermark I could include behind these words that would aptly communicate my heart. Because I am not only uncomfortable recently, I am deeply disturbed. I cringe when I read what some people share as real information. The stats are overwhelming at the ludicrous information people believe. And let me say, I have as much tendency to want to believe things that fit in with my worldview as the next person does. Even when there is no basis in reality nor are there accompanying facts, our response reveals our humanity. In that perfectly created environment, those very first people proved just that. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that a powerful “conspirator” (God) was secretly trying to keep them from knowing the truth. Sadly, they became the first people in a long history to believe they were missing something due to a grand and deceitful plot to keep them uninformed.
“In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” the serpent said to the woman.
Knowing this, we can’t expect that there won’t be some people somewhere who will believe baseless notions. But followers of Christ who are consistently spreading misinformation, without caring if it’s true or false, are engaging in a practice that I think hinders the gospel message. I know that my position likely strikes some folks wrong who think I’m lumping a bunch of people into one unfavorable category. And maybe I am. But I believe this is so detrimental to the purpose, plan and mission of Christ, that I’m willing to take the risk that I’ll be misunderstood.
I recently reread the letters from the apostle Peter to the believers that were temporarily scattered throughout Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). I think his words are still so relevant for us – the believers spread across the globe in 2021. I think we should consider what he emphasizes in these letters, especially as he is dealing with ‘end times’. In urging his readers to contemplate their future, he encourages them to pursue holiness (personally and corporately) through their trials as he relates it to their hope, salvation, the community, and even their connection to the rest of the world. Peter is encouraging them to imitate what they know of Jesus, and to show with their words and lives the upside-down kingdom He proclaimed. As they prayed, witnessed, baptized and discipled the people in their sphere of influence, Peter reminded them that their examples would serve as evidence of the truth they confessed – that is, the beautiful truth about Jesus.
Peter indicated his reason for writing to them was to encourage them to stand firm amid suffering or persecution due to their faith in Jesus. If you read the letters, you’ll notice this persecution came in different forms, but behind it was always an attempt to thwart the gospel message being expanded. As Paul traveled around proclaiming the gospel, some churches he planted experienced persecution and others did not experience this in the same way. Peter reflects on the persecution of many of the believers even though in some areas it was not ‘official’ yet. Whatever was happening, there was clear evidence that some were experiencing hardship in direct relationship to their devotion to the gospel and to Christ. Peter’s letter was to encourage them to be faithful to Christ despite what they might experience because of their faith and witness. I find these words in Peter’s second letter very encouraging , although he adds a humorous thought about his friend Paul: Dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him … regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. [Ya think?! LOL!] The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures. Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Christians – those who confess to follow Christ as Lord – are not immune to conspiracy theories. We know this because even in that perfect world, the first people proved they could fall for a lie that was twisted into a believable theory. So considering the original condition of humanity, if ever there was a world where conspiracy theories are tempting, we live in it currently. And the access we have to these false claims is unparalleled. But we simply must be alert and willing to denounce what is clearly untrue so that we may have a voice to boldly proclaim what is true. More importantly, WHO is true!
There is a conspiracy. However, it is NOT primarily a human one. The irony is that there is indeed a great conspirator. It is the one who convinced humanity they were being duped by their Creator. Bible writers Peter and Jude warned the early believers that there would be those who would bring into the church destructive heresies and false claims. Jesus Himself said we would hear of wars and rumors of wars. He told His followers not to be alarmed because it was inevitable that these things would happen.
Spreading conspiracy theories and having anxious hearts should not be the pattern a follower of Jesus. We should not be swayed by false bad news, but instead we should persuade people to believe the good news. This good news is our reality!!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.” 1 Peter