The One Where I Defend Heretics


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

You read that title right. I am defending heretics. In fact, I’ll take it a step further; I like heretics.

At least I like our modern day heretics.

See, 1,700 years ago, a heretic was a person who taught things that were contrary to Scripture. We burned them at the stake.

Today, the title of heretic is given to pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with the person who is handing out the title. We burn them on the Internet.

Why do I like heretics?

Heretics challenge us. Spend too much time talking with people who agree with you and soon you’ll start thinking everyone agrees with you. One of the best (and worst) things about the Internet is that conversations are now open forums. You say something in an unclear way, without context or without thinking, and someone is going to call you on it. Fast.

Heretics make us continually check our thinking and, in turn, the way in which we communicate. When I have spent too much time with people I assume agree with me, I find myself saying things like, “You know what I mean,” or “Surely SHE knows I’m not talking about THAT.” Or, when people do disagree, I immediately discount their opinion, thinking, “If she knew where I was coming from, she’d understand.”

When you’ve spent so much time with the same people, it’s easy to take for granted that you know each other, and it’s really hard to recognize the expected changes and growth in one another. One thing I have learned the last few years is that even with the people who agree with you the most, there is eventually going to come a time when you will disagree.

And when you disagree with the people who have “always been around” sometimes you find out that you’ve been assuming much more than you’ve been communicating. You’ve not been sharpening one another like iron, you’ve most likely been taking one another and your assumed agreement for granted. And when assumptions and expectations are challenged, a lot of pain can occur.

This is why I like heretics.

Those who vocally disagree with you do more for your sharpening than anyone who simply exists in your sphere of influence but never actually influences you.

We have developed this image of mentoring and Christian relationships that is soft and fluffy and emotional unity, and that’s not the completely biblical picture of Christian living.

Have you ever actually seen iron sharpen iron? It’s loud and violent and hot.

We’re told in Hebrews to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Spur. Like you spur a horse. Agitate those around you to break out of their routine and assumptions and consider just how apathetic they may have become.

To edify is more than writing a pretty note to a friend telling her you’re praying for her. Edify is a construction term. Construction is dirty and sweaty. It’s hard work.

Heretics sharpen us. They sharpen our thoughts and our communication. They force us to cling tightly to Christ while we learn to hold our labels and our heroes very loosely. I’ve learned in the last few months that I’m not nearly as “conservative” as I once was. And I am ok with that. The term has changed and I have changed, but if I had not been engaged in hard conversations with people I assumed I disagreed with, both theologically and politically, I would have kept sharp lines of separation drawn, and I would have missed out learning a lot about myself, about God, and about those who see the world differently from me.

So if heretics are the people who disagree with me, then I love heretics.

I love that they challenge me to put away my stereotypes and sweeping generalizations and force me to get to know individuals, appreciating our points of agreement while respectfully examining the points at which we disagree.

I love that their sweeping generalizations, the ones that cause me to say, “I hold to that label, but I do NOT hold to that belief!” cause me to pause and consider my own heart and my own convictions.

I love that heretics allow the complex nature of Christ to shine before a watching world. When others see us engage in civil discourse concerning issues about which we passionately disagree and we walk away from the conversation edified, the world marvels, “How is that possible?” And we have an opportunity to share with a watching world the hope that is within us.

Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that unifies. Not our political beliefs or our theological platforms. Within orthodox Christianity, there is plenty of room to disagree, and even in our disagreements we have room to display the unity of Christ.

Do I have those people in my life who encourage me and love on me and wipe my tears and cheer me on? Absolutely, as everyone should. But I have also begun to develop an equally precious group of friends with whom I agree on very little theologically or politically. But what we do agree on is the fact that we have room to learn from one another. None of us has the monopoly on all truth, but the best part is that we are all more interested in being loving and holy than in being right.

So I would encourage you: find yourself a heretic. Invite someone into your life who doesn’t agree with you on everything and enter into a sharpening relationship. Challenge one another with the intention of building and growing. You just might find out that you love heretics, too.

Creativity and Suffering


In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.
Orson Welles

What is it about adversity that causes mankind to reach the heights of greatness? As Welles so humorously pointed out above, some of the most stunning pieces of art, some of the most famous stories and songs, some of the most incredible sculptures and photographs and poetry were created in response to times of great pain and struggle and heartache.

What is it about suffering that inspires creativity? Is it our inherent need to be known? Are we desperate to have a community with whom we can share our troubles, but feel we must first create a community by expressing our suffering? Is it a cry out to know that we are not alone in our suffering? Is it just a need to get it out before our own hearts explode from the pressure? Why do people shine the brightest in moments of deepest darkness?

This creativity in adversity is part of our nature; it is a part of the image of God imprinted on the soul of every person. God’s greatest work in Scripture occurred in the midst of some of the darkest moments in human history. Creation occurred in literally the darkest moment. When the Creator made time, He began his work with nothing. The word used to describe the work God did when he fashioned Eve from the side of Adam is the same word used later in the Old Testament to describe the artistic handiwork of the craftsmen commissioned to build the Temple. God is an artist. And He used the darkest moment in human history to serve the greatest purpose in divine sovereignty.

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our LORD Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5)

Did you catch that? At the end of suffering, there is hope. There is hope in spite of suffering because of the work of Christ on the cross. The most incredible creativity in adversity is born in the minds of those who, in the midst of suffering in this fallen, sinful and broken world, continue to long for a better country (Hebrews 11:6). Those who suffer without hope see no point to suffering, and their work reflects their hopelessness.

Some of the most beautiful passages of Scripture were written in the depths of pain and sorrow. And the beauty in them comes in the fact that, in spite of the desperate expression of pain, there is always an equally desperate acknowledgment of the love and sovereignty of a God who loves us deeply and knows our pain and is there with us in the midst of it.

Creativity in the face of adversity is the human soul testifying to the fact that there must be something more to this life! When life is peaceful and prosperous, our longing for a better country subsides and we become, in the words of CS Lewis, “far too easily pleased” with the pleasures of this world. But when we are faced with adversity beyond our control, we are also reminded that we are ultimately not in control of our own lives. There is something greater than us, there is a place greater than this one, and we long for it.

How do you respond to adversity? Does is cripple you, draining you of your faith and balance, causing you to shake a fist at God or the Universe or whatever other being you worship? Or does it increase your longing for a better country, forcing you to join all of creation in its groans for redemption? Does it put you in a paralyzed state or does it spur you to move to action in a desperate search for truth and understanding in a seemingly pointless situation? Do you think, “Why me?” or “What can I learn from this?”

When you face suffering, do you crash and burn or soar and create? Is your inspiration found somewhere within the transient and fallen creation, which is sure to fail and disappoint us, or have you found the Creator, the life source that “does not disappoint”?