by MW Cook
False prophets. It sounds so scary, eh? The Old Testament says they should be killed. The New Testament isn’t much easier on them. They seem pretty bad.
How do you tell someone is a false prophet? Most religious folks would say something like ‘anyone who teaches something about God that is not true.’ But I’ve never really been satisfied with that, have you? To me, God is just too … mysterious. He’s hard to pin down.
Is God omnipotent? Yes! Of course! In fact, why would you even ask a question like that?
Can God forgive sins without the shedding of blood? No. Of course not. Yet another question that you shouldn’t ask!
So is he still omnipotent even though he can’t forgive without killing something first? Uhh… Suddenly things are a little to complicated to be angry about certain disagreements.
But who am I to argue for false prophets?
And then I caught what Jesus said during his sermon.
Beware of false prophets … You will recognize them by their fruits.
I’ll be honest, that threw me for a loop. I always thought that false prophets were false because of their bad doctrine. But Jesus suggests that they are false and dangerous because of their bad fruit. That puts preachers and teachers and leaders into a whole new light.
Back in KLBC, I had a list. It was my mighty list of things that itinerate preachers needed to say / not say in order for me to be willing to listen to them. Basically they had to say good things about people like Calvin, Piper, Edwards and every puritan while saying bad things about Wilkinson, popular worship music, popular books and anything else that was popular and/or new. That was how I judged whether someone was a false prophet or not. Pretty crappy list, eh?
But if the best way to decide if someone is worth following is by his fruits, then we have a totally different list. It looks something like this:
Is the leader:
Loving Joyful Peace-making Patient Kind Good Faithful Gentle Self-controlled
Just a few verses after Jesus points to this new list, he mentions how it’s going to be on the last day, and it throws everything into sharp perspective. He’s got people all around him, people who did mighty and famous works and prophecies. And Jesus rejects them all. Why? They were not nice people.
On the last day, why do I suppose that Jesus will ask us to sign a statement of faith? Why do we think that we will get in based on how close our thoughts of God are to the infinite truth? Jesus never, as far as I can tell, equated theological correctness with goodness. He said pick up your cross and follow. Not just pick up your cross and agree.