We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:14-16
One of my first jobs out of undergrad was teaching high school English, back when kids learned how to diagram sentences. While I haven’t thought about diagramming in years, it all came back while reading Ephesians 4, where one sentence runs a total of 81 words (see above.) I couldn’t begin to diagram it. But the message is hard to miss. Here’s the Tim translation: “We need to leave deceitful foolishness alone and tell the truth in love, growing in Christ, so we can mature into a high-functioning, healthy community grounded in love.”
This is not to suggest Gather is not a loving, healthy community. We’re all of that. What brings this text to mind is how floridly Paul describes windbags who spew doctrinal gusts to trick and deceive and promote hatefulness. Once he sets that scene, Paul uses the rest of this elegant, runaway sentence to effectively say, “Yeah, we can’t grow if we keep falling for their baloney.”
Now this is hard for many of us hear because some of these blowhards (forgive the pun) raised us and prayed with us and taught us the Bible. Yet, in retrospect, we can see how—for good or bad—they used scripture to manipulate and demean and clobber us, often with such craftiness we don’t want anything to do with faith or the gospel or even God. And that’s understandable. But is it viable?
Paul doesn’t think so. And I have to say I’m on his side. Allowing the schemers and deceivers to stunt our spiritual growth hands leaves us deprived. The way we overcome deceitful doctrines and tricky translations is by de-weaponizing the Word, knowing scripture for ourselves—not only what it says, but why it says what it says, and what it was originally meant to achieve. We start there and then we grow into deeper love for God, for scripture, for one another, and for others like us who’ve not yet found their way home.
That’s why our current series, Queer Theology 101, is so vital. It goes right back to the source and tests what’s there against everything we’ve been told was there. Once we sort through the misleading, often flat-out incorrect doctrines used to demean and deceive, we can move on to “speaking the truth in love.” Get some of that good word in your system and I promise you’ll grow!
Join us this Thursday as we work through more of the so-called clobber texts that have been abused to shame and condemn LGBTQ folks. You’ll discover going back to unlearn some of this stuff is how we find our way forward. The conversation starts at 7:30pm CDT. I look forward to seeing you!