Monday, March 24, 2014

Dirty Pigs, Puke Licking Dogs, and Falling Away

When I was a kid and somebody stopped going to church on Wednesdays, then Sunday night, then finally Sunday morning, the grown-ups said they were "falling away."  I remember wondering about it.  Was it an accident, like tripping on the sidewalk? It seemed such a long process that in my child's mind, I imagined them falling endlessly down a rabbit's hole like Alice in Wonderland.  It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that this was nothing more than a euphemism - a polite way to express an unspeakable thing.

The Bible is a book filled with euphemisms including this one (Luke 8:13 and Hebrews 6:6). However we also find plenty of language that's strong, offensive and occasionally down right horrifying.  Peter's words to describe those who fall away and the teachers who lead them are appalling.

Having identified the Christians of the dispersion with the Israelites of old, he goes on to say that they too face the danger of false prophets (2 Peter 2:1)  These false prophets are in his words, sensual, greedy, and "unreasoning animals."(2 Peter 2:2-3, 12) He says they seem promising but in fact are as disappointing as a waterless spring (2 Peter 2:17).  He accuses them of being slated for destruction, doomed to be judged and cast off into darkness. There are no kindly euphemisms here.  Peter knows that these men promise freedom but in fact are enslaving Christians right and left (2 Peter 2:19).

Have you ever seen a "false prophet?"  I think I probably have but I didn't know it at the time.  I naively thought a "false prophet" was probably a nice guy who was going around unintentionally spouting some untrue doctrine.  But that doesn't fit Peter's words at all. Peter is more focused on character than he is on the teaching of the false doctrine itself (Of course teaching a false doctrine is also unacceptable- Galatians provides an example). He identifies a false prophet as a person coming from inside our Christian world, who is ruled by the flesh.  Although what this prophet is teaching seems to promise freedom and/or physical blessings, those who follow after him find themselves enslaved again to their flesh.

I have seen people deceived.  I have seen them seduced by the greedy and sensual into believing that God can be manipulated in prayer or that they can have healing on demand (with a cash donation).  I have seen the poor and elderly scammed out of money by the overtly "Christian," money that lined already fat pockets of the falsest of prophets.

Infuriating?  Yes!  But dangerous as well because Peter knows its just this sort of thing that leads people away.

Peter aims to upset; he's saved his most powerful image for last. He pictures the Christian who has escaped the world and all its filth. Then he imagines her overcome by the world a second time and thus enslaved.  This he says is like a sow going back to wallow in the mud.  Or like a dog who vomits and then eats it.

This image a dog licking up its puke is a far cry from the euphemistic "falling away" of my childhood.  And I think its an apt description.  When we vomit, we are literally getting rid of what's making us sick.  Although it's not a metaphor I like for eliminating sin, it's a legitimate one. Falling away suggests a slow drift process. One could almost imagine that the symptom (skipping church) was in fact the actual disease. But Peter's words make it clear. We lose a Christian to the world because in his life he is licking up the puke of his sin.  

I have sins that I have fought tooth and nail.  Things I have by Holy Spirit and through grace overcome to some extent.  The thought of going back to being out of control in those aspects is terrifying.  I don't want to be that girl again.  Ever.  Not only because I'm disgusted, but because it dishonors the death of a Savior who died so I could be free.

Yorkshire pigs at animal sanctuaryPeter is not polite and his words aren't easy to hear, but he is plain. I wonder if we couldn't take a lesson here and speak to be understood.  False prophets aren't nice people who are unintentionally mistaken.  They are shallow, sensual animals enslaving those around them by means of empty promises. Leaving God isn't just an accident, an unfortunate circumstance, or even a simple tragedy; it's a more like a slave re-affixing his shackles, a washed pig splashing in his wallow, or a sick dog licking up its own puke.  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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