In 1972 America was experiencing an amazing movement among young people called “The Jesus Movement.” Jesus was the “hero” of a lot of the youth of the day! And I was right there in the middle of it. At 12 years old and about to step into my teenage years, I was a big participant in the new “Contemporary Christian Music” of “The Second Chapter of Acts,” “Andrae Crouch and the Disciples,” “Barry McGuire,” and “Love Song.” Just a trip down memory lane for me and my fellow “Jesus Freaks!”
But there was one song that seemed to capture the underlying spirit of the whole thing, and it wasn’t done by a CCM artist at all. It was recorded by a country singer named Tom T. Hall. The song was “Me and Jesus.” Here’s the chorus: “Me and Jesus got our own thing going. Me and Jesus got it all worked out. Me and Jesus got our own thing going. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” Yeah, that’s what was under all this; both the good AND the bad.
Look at our Lesson today in 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2:1-9:
Beloved, first of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example to those who were to be ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.
St. Peter seems to make it clear that there is a danger in a Lone Ranger attitude toward the Scriptures, the Church, and the Faith. In fact, he goes on to lay out some clear consequences of a “go it alone” attitude toward the Way of Faith.
First, he warns that heresy will always result from a disconnected Faith. Even though the Scriptures and the Prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit, that alone could not stop false prophets and heresies from plaguing the People of God. St. Peter is referring to the People of Israel in the First Testament and all the troubles that came because of false teachings among the people. And the results of these false teachings weren’t wrong beliefs, but the destructive force of wrong and selfish behaviors. But that’s what always results from disconnected Faith.
Next, he warns that a “go it alone” faith is always the result of a self-centered attitude. “I don’t like this or that teaching, so I’ll just make one up for myself.” This spiritual dead-end always results in the opposite of God’s intentions for us in creating communion, healing, and harmony. St. Peter uses clear examples of both the people of Noah’s day and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Finally, the Apostle Peter gives us some hope. While forgetting the common Faith and the continuity of the Faith through the centuries results in division, selfishness, and ultimate destruction, those who pay the price to stay connected to the “river of fire” through the centuries by their mutual love for and responsibility to those who have gone before are rescued from trials by their very fidelity to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
Today, it’s so easy to justify abandoning the timeless faith for something more “contemporary” or “relevant” or even “entertaining,” the results are always going to be a dilution of the Faith and that always means the “medicine” of the Faith will be too weak to heal the deepest ills of our souls. No matter how tempting it may be to leave the Faith for something more “upbeat” or “relevant” don’t do it. Have the courage to remain Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, thank You for setting me free from “lone ranger” religion. I am thankful to swim in the ocean of the wisdom of those who have followed You for centuries. But I confess the temptation to “go my own way” still haunts me and I catch myself wanting a designer religion that is less demanding and less convicting. Help me take Great lent seriously this year. And give me Your strength to pay attention to my choices and my actions. Fill me with Your peace and grace so that I can be an example to others in not listening to “false teachers.” Amen.