Friday, February 1, 2013

Do Your Ears Tickle?

I often hear Christians speak negatively of pastors who have positive messages or churches who are open to differing political and cultural views. Often, while someone is condemning these bodies of Christ they will quote II Timothy 4:3

II Tim. 4:3
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

The interpretation of this verse is generally that the "wholesome teaching" is in step with a conservative political agenda.

What if we're wrong about what the Bible's concept of ear tickling might be? We on the fundamentalist/conservative side of things think that it means accepting what we view as sinful lifestyles. We think it is preachers who focus on the positive instead of ranting about hell and the consequences of sin. We see the world changing in ways we don't like or understand (and that we aren't trying to understand) and worry that disaster is just around the corner for the Kingdom of Christ.

But what if we've missed the real point? What if the thing that is tickling our ears is judgement and condemnation? What if the "easy" Gospel is one we've manipulated and twisted to mean being able to repress or oppress people based on their choices or weaknesses? What if our pride is fueled by "hating the sin" when we are without enough spiritual openness to "love the sinner?" What if the real thing that is "tickling our ears" is our thinking that we are right or have the answers instead of despising our own pride and hypocrisy.

Let's face it, the hard thing to do is not formulate opinions and then find scripture to back up our thinking. The hard thing, the really painful thing that will crack open our hard hearts and allow the love of Christ to stream into our crusty spirits is love. Compassion. Kindness. Openness. Grace.

Jude 1:18 They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires."

What if the "ungodly desires" are not the things we normally think of? What if the ungodly desires in this passage refers to other things we know God hates: lack of compassion for the poor, violence, faith in a political system instead of God?  When we hear these verses taught or discussed they are generally used in reference to things like homosexuality. I am always amused at how upsetting we find other people's sin. Psalm 139 says search me o God and know my heart.

Me. My. Not his, hers, theirs. Mine.

What if the tickling of the ears we should be worried about is anything other than the love of Christ, complete redemption, healing, and restoration for the broken around us.

What if in our pride we have been deceived into thinking our mission is something other than that?

I recently heard a well respected talk show host connect our possible redefinition of marriage and the country's "turning our back on God" to the Sandy Hook shooting and another well known pastor blame the TV show Glee for "destroying America."  I find it interesting that these same men never blame the violence perpetrated in an unnecessary war for our country's problems. I cannot remember the last time I heard a rip roaring sermon about the evils of gluttony or conspicuous consumption. Why can't lack of forgiveness, bitterness, being unconcerned about poverty be the reasons for the nation's problems?  What if our hypocrisy and not open hearts and minds, is the real problem?

The ministry of Jesus was, and is, personal. It's about my heart and yours. It's about binding up the brokenhearted. It's about the poor. The lonely. The wounded. What if the message is being twisted by some churches? What if it's not the ones we think?

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