1Co 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Have you ever sensed that some ingredient was missing in food you were eating, but you just couldn’t, as they say, “put your finger on it”? That is a bit how I feel right now in trying to explain what I want to explain.
When I went to seminary, there was something missing (I didn’t know it at the time). At many Christian conferences I have attended, something was missing. I have seen the same void in pastors and in very intelligent people who claim to be Christians and who have a real taste for theology.
I suppose I can best describe the missing ingredient as “the punch line.” In seminary, we studied theology and Greek and Hebrew, we diagrammed Scripture sentences and outlined books of the Bible. We studied church history, counseling, leadership, church organization, and on and on. But in most all of this, there was no punch line.
Let me give you an example of what I mean-
Mat 21:28-31 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ (29) And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
“Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” Punch line. Boom!
God’s Word is powerful, and one of the primary reasons that it is powerful is because God’s prophets, Apostles, and Jesus Himself of course, did not pull their punches. They preached and taught, but then they looked right at their hearers and said, “I am talking to YOU.” When Paul, for instance, was instructing Timothy about leading the local church, he did not leave what he said in the academic, generalized realm. He got specific. He got very pointed. He named names. He warned. He encouraged. That is to say, he made specific, current, very clear application of what he was teaching. Nathan told David, “Thou art the man!” Look through Jesus’ parables – you won’t find one that falls short of this.
In seminary, I never ONCE heard a professor say to these classes of future pastors, “it is very probable that some of you are not born again.” In most all cases, the Scriptures were kept in an elevated, theoretical realm which had application to the biblical personalities (Paul, Timothy, the Pharisees, Alexander, Peter, the Galatians), but never brought right down in the faces of those listening.
What has all of this to do with abusers and narcissists and other wolves hiding in the churches? It has everything to do with this subject. As long as evil is dealt with in a hypothetical, academic manner, as long as professors and pastors and theologians fail to look right into the eyes of those they are teaching and say ‘This Scripture is talking about YOU, and about the churches YOU are in,’ then evil is going to go right on hiding in the pews.
Why are the punches pulled? Why does no one say “Thou are the man!” Because most people don’t want to believe it or hear it. Bring it to light and a quiet, uncomfortable stillness that you can feel will envelop the audience. I know. I’ve done it. And I have felt it.
The Old Testament prophets were hated and killed. Jesus was hated and killed. The Apostles were hated and killed. Paul had to be let down the city wall in a basket. He was stoned. John was sentenced to exile on a rock called Patmos. Because they were whistleblowers about evil.
There just isn’t much whistleblowing going on today.