Read Between the Lines

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, December 26, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

King Herod was a wicked and self-focused king. He was power hungry and radically insecure. He killed his own sons to keep them from taking his throne. His personal life was a wreck, even if he professionally had power and influence. It's this king that the wise men spoken of in the Bible came to see on their search for Jesus.

Herod asked them for information about Jesus, and said he wanted to worship Him. But his real intent was to kill any rival to his throne, even a child. Jesus would have been about 2 years old when the wise men arrived. So, Herod ordered the death of all children 2 and under in Bethlehem, to try and ensure he took Him out.

Read Romans 16:17-20. In his final section of his letter, Paul warns the believers in Rome to watch carefully those who cause divisions and hindrances that are contrary from “what they were taught [God's Word].” And he goes so far as to say, “Avoid them” because everything they do and say comes from their enslavement to their own desires. In other words, no matter what they say, or how good it sounds, there is a shadow mission, a selfish agenda, underneath.

The hardest thing to do when dealing with someone like this is to discern if they are intentionally being divisive, or are just unaware of their shortcomings. That is why it is important to watch them carefully, and listen carefully. We have to hear what they say, and what they don't say - reading between the lines of their words and intent.

As you observe and talk with them, you will discover their trajectory and motives. And one thing is for certain, when you get close to uncovering their shadow mission, they are likely to make a personal attack toward you. A divisive person who is hindering the Gospel will not consider relationship first; they will consider the threat to their agenda before anything else. They may start as a “friend” because you have something to offer their cause, but resist their desires and you will quickly find yourself being made the “bad guy.”

The hardest lesson to learn in this is that it is okay to walk away. Whether it’s a controlling leader who attacks you because the question for clarity exposes their motives, or couples who fight to get their own way instead of fighting FOR their marriage, or individuals who prefer chaos and lying to get attention more than even their own child's well-being, the hardest part is walking away.

I have dealt with these and many more, and sometimes you get the unique opportunity to be the voice that helps them change course. Many more times, though, it doesn't work out that way. It's important to pay close attention, not just to see if there is error in their behavior or motives, but also to see if there is opportunity to help them change direction.

The wise men were told by God to go home a different way than they came. God had them completely avoid going near Herod. And God sent Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod's murderous plan. We don't know if God warned other parents, or if the soldiers warned anyone before the attack. We do know that Herod divided his own kingdom and destroyed part of its future all because of power, control, and fear. In order for that to happen, there had to be people who blindly followed him, and did not consider how his leadership measured up to God's Word. What if his councils had observed him closely and stopped following his commands? What if they had rejected the power Herod offered, and instead stayed loyal to what is good and right and true?

In the free will God has given us, we can be a part of great evil or great good. Normally great evil starts with small detours into personal agendas. Great good usually comes when we have the courage to reject division and stumbling blocks, to walk in truth and unity. It is hard for believers to grasp what walking in truth and unity looks like, because followers of Christ have too often become followers of personalities, doctrines, programs, etc.

As you wrap up 2015, take a moment and ask yourself:
- Who am I listening to? What is their spoken agenda, and what is their hidden one?
  - Am I a part of what is truly good, or just what seems good?
- Is the community of faith I am part of partnering with other denominations, groups, etc. that also trust the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice?

I trust God to lead you, as you look closely into these questions. May 2016 be a year of great unity among believers, and great purity in our hearts as we follow God's Word.

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