Advent 3.4: False and true

"As there were false prophets in the past history of our people, so you too will have your false teachers, who will insinuate their own disruptive views and, by disowning the Lord who brought them freedom, will bring upon themselves a speedy destruction. Many will copy their debauched behavior and the Way of Truth will be brought into disrepute on their account." 2 Peter 2:1-2

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This passage was part of today's midday prayers. Now, I've already confessed to not being wonderfully familiar with the details and context of the Bible (I work at a seminary but I ain't no theologian), but these verses still struck me as I recited them under my breath. They struck me because I could hear myself starting to think,

AMEN, false prophets! How many of those do we have these days? Too many to count, and they all seem to be in power, *definitely* insinuating their own disruptive views not only into the cultural consciousness but pushing them into OTHER PEOPLE'S ACTUAL LIVES and grocery carts and bank accounts and medical care and uteruses and schools and safety and hopes and dreams for a new life and and and...

Basically, when I first read this passage, I thought, Yes! God is on my side!

But then I stopped. I read it again. And I thought about how many of the people (most of them other Christians) who I consider to be false prophets would be wagging their fingers and saying the exact same thing about me, and people who agree with me. False prophets! Disowning the Lord! The Way of Truth will be brought into disrepute on their (my) account!

I know there are tons of contradictory Bible verses whose meaning depends on who you're asking. (And I think pretty much ALL of us pick and choose.)

If I'm looking at it naively and optimistically, I think, how cool--a representation of the many diverse perspectives on Christianity out there! But most of the time these days, I'm thinking about it as a frustrated privileged person who continues to dig through what that means, and who feels closest to Jesus when I think about how he calls us to treat others--not simply by being nice to folks in our daily interactions, but by treating our sisters and brothers holistically--acting and living so that all may experience peace, hope, love, and joy.

More and more, I realize, this call is individual, yes, but also--especially--institutional. Societal. Systemic. I'm still figuring out how I, a privileged individual, can begin to positively shift the institutional, societal, and systemic. It feels more than daunting. But when I see what's being done in our country today by those in power, I can't help but let the words seep back into my head: False prophets.

I guess I'm a false prophet in my own way. (Although "prophet" is not a word I'd use to describe myself any day of the week...) I think and say things that I'm pretty certain aren't what God would have me think or say. I look out for my own interests a lot of the time. My opinions matter to me, and I'm sure some people would see them as "disruptive views." I tumble into judgment as easily as breathing, judgment of others and myself. All of this is true. 

In Advent we await the Christ child who came to save us from ourselves, from our sins. The whole getting-into-heaven thing. Not to be so flippant about it; I do believe that personal relationship is important, I think I'm still discovering how much. But I also believe that a huge part of our sin, a big reason God joined us on earth in the first place, is our lack of empathy and action for our brothers and sisters now, in this life. Because our sin, though it may start out as individual, quickly becomes collective. 

I don't know that I have a very clear-cut way to wind this post down. I definitely don't feel like I have all the answers. I do know that during worship on Sunday, I stepped up to the lectern and read the following passage from Isaiah:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.