08 January 2016

When Christians have no respect for leadership.

While at the same time, inconsistently coveting all their followers.

Jude 1.14-18

I previously explained how Jude referred to the mythology of his day, and how this doesn’t necessarily mean Jude considered these books authoritative.

I bring this up again ’cause Jude quoted 1 Enoch, a fictional firsthand account of heaven as shown to Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch, who went there y’know. Ge 5.24 No it’s not real; it was written in Aramaic, a language which didn’t exist in whatever century Enoch lived in. But it was well-known. Paul even took the idea of the “third heaven” from it, 2Co 12.2 ’cause the third heaven is where paradise is. A copy was even found among the Dead Sea scrolls.

Jude quoted this bit:

Jude 1.14-15 KWL
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them,
saying “Look, the Lord comes with myriads of his saints,
15 making judgment upon all, examining every life
against all their irreverent work, irreverently done;
concerning every harsh thing the irreverent sinners said against him.”

…which comes from this passage. (I’m quoting a Greek translation found in the Codex Panopolitanus.)

…that he comes with his myriads and his saints, making judgment upon all. He will destroy all the irreverent, and examine all flesh against all their irreverent work, irreverently done; and harsh words which the irreverent said, and everything which the irreverent sinners said together about him. 1 Enoch 1.9 KWL

Obviously not an exact quote. Jude may have been quoting it from memory. But it’s as if I were preaching on the Day of the LORD, on Jesus’s second coming, and I quoted the Larry Norman song instead of the bible:

There’s no time to change your mind;
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

Norman was hardly an infallible prophet, but hey, he rhymes. And like we learned from The Lego Movie, that ain’t nothing. Some people will believe anything put to poetry.

Why do people quote other people? Usually it’s to criticize, but most of the time it’s to prove we’re hardly the only people who believe as we do. Jude was far from the only apostle to teach Jesus is returning and’ll judge the wicked. As we know from the other apostles—but back when Jude wrote his letter, he didn’t yet have their writings to quote from. So he quoted what he did have, off the top of his head: 1 Enoch. It’s not bible, but it’s something. Something his audience knew.

Still true, too. Jesus is returning and’ll judge the wicked. And these go-it-alone Christians who defy the leaders of God’s church, who presume they’re righteous while they rebel, are gonna find themselves on the wrong side of salvation history.

I run into this type all the time. I remember fellow schoolteacher who was a member of an independent Fundamentalist church, who refused anyone’s correction on biblical matters because, she regularly pointed out, “I need no man to teach me.” 1Jn 2.27 (An ironic quote, considering her church doesn’t believe women can teach.) She recognized no one as her spiritual father, Mt 23.9 because she heard from God, and no one could tell her otherwise. It’s a pretty common attitude in a lot of American Christians—whether they go to church (and ignore their pastors) or not.

For a little while I flirted with this attitude… but I knew it was because I was being rebellious, and had nothing to do with the way God deals with people one-on-one. Yes, I have my own individual relationship with God. (As do you.) But he made me part of Christ’s body, which means I’m meant to follow him in concert with every other Christian. To arrogantly assume the Holy Spirit only speaks to me: That’s how cults start.

I’m not the Spirit’s only prophet. No one is. True, the Spirit doesn’t need there to be multiple prophets in order to confirm his messages, but he prefers us to work together, because he is relational, and loving one another is one of his fruits. The go-it-alone Christian submits to no one, and no matter how much they claim they love people nonetheless, that ain’t love. Worse, no iron is sharpening their iron, Pr 27.17 so they won’t realize how wrong they’ve gone.

Man are they in for a rotten surprise when Jesus returns.


1 Enoch (or its translator, at least) sure did like that word asevís/“irreverent.” The King James Version tends to render it “ungodly,” and a lot of other bibles follow its lead. But its root word sévas refers to the sort of awe people are expected to have towards holiness and majesty and honor. Luke used a related word, Sevastós, to translate Caesar’s Latin title Augustus Ac 25.21, 25, 27.1 because that’s what it means: Respected, impressive, even sacred.

As I pointed out in my last piece on Jude, the way people translate this letter tends to make it sound like the real issue with the people Jude critiqued, was the lack of honor they paid angels. What’s more, supposedly their issue, according to Enoch, was ungodliness. You know, sinful behavior. The sort of sinful behavior which resulted in the worldwide flood Enoch’s great-grandson escaped.

Again, a handy way for us to dodge the real teaching of Jude: “Why, I don’t practice ungodliness. I try to follow God to the best of my ability. Unlike the ungodly. They’re so in trouble with Jesus. I’m not.”

But as we all know, plenty of “godly” people have no reverence for any spiritual authority in the world. Functionally they’re anarchists: They don’t recognize any authority but God, and since they think of him as kinda distant (or certainly treat him that way), they knock down any church leaders they can find. Pastors and bishops are no more authoritative than they. Scholars have no more knowledge than they. Elders have no more wisdom than they. We’re all equal in God’s eyes, right? So that means no structure, no hierarchy; like Judges every can do what’s right in their own eyes, with nothing but scripture and conscience as our guide.

While it’s true that all political authority comes from the people, they foolishly apply this same idea to spiritual authority, and don’t recognize God appoints leaders. Did back in bible times; still does. Like Korah, Nu 16.1-3, Ju 1.11 they assume all spiritual authority is usurped, and want to knock down any leader they find. And in so doing, they’re stupidly fighting the God who called those leaders to lead.

Even Christians who do recognize there are such things as spiritual leaders, commit irreverence from time to time. I’m not saying we have to obey every pastor; some of them are obviously leading people to their doom. But if God appointed them, if they haven’t disqualified themselves from leadership through reckless behavior 1Ti 3.1-13 and are producing spiritual fruit, we need to have some reverence for them. They’re growing God’s kingdom. Anyone who does that merits respect.

But the irreverent don’t bother. They look at leadership as obstacles in the way of their own ministries and calling. They might accept the idea Christians must submit to one another, Ep 5.21 but when it comes to leaders they’re mighty quick to point out, “And they need to submit too, ’cause that instruction is for all of us.” So… our leaders need to submit to our authority? How handy for us.

But that’s not what submission means. Submit, in the Christian sense, means to take others into consideration. Good leaders do precisely that. Irreverent Christians do not.

The jealousy of rebel Christians.

When go-it-alone Christians bash churches, bash Christian leaders, bash any Christian structure, you’ll find at the root of it a whole lot of jealousy. They don’t see why people are following those ministries. They can’t understand why God’s blessing those people.

In fact they claim just the opposite: Those ministries are getting followers and finances and support because they’re actually no threat to the devil. So in order to deprive the real Christians (like them) of this material support, the devil is funneling them money and power. It’s not really God behind it.

There’s definitely something to their argument, considering all the money we see pouring into political causes, pagan religions, inappropriate entertainment, and the like. Okay, some of these megachurches might really be a means to distract Christians away from building God’s true kingdom. But as always, look for fruit. If the megachurches are led by, and producing, Christians who exhibit love, joy, peace, etc., they’re God’s. And if this jealous little go-it-alone ministry has nothing but spite for such ministries, who’s really the unwitting tool of the devil?

Once again in his letter, Jude slid back into describing such people.

Jude 1.16-18 KWL
16 These complainers are blaming others for the desires they chase on their own.
Their huge mouths speak, astonished by the grace we gain.
17 Beloved, remember the word foretold by the apostles of our master, Christ Jesus!
18 They told you in the End Time, there’ll be those who mock,
who irreverently go after their own desires.

Christians tend to assume whenever the authors of the bible wrote about people who chase their own epithymías/“desires,” they’re talking about lust, ’cause that’s how the KJV and many other bibles render it. It’s all about sex to them. And they aren’t that horny—why, they’re happily married, and would never cheat on their spouses!—so they’re not lusting like these sinners.

But back when the KJV was translated, lust referred to any desire. Not just sexual. People lust for wealth, for profit, for influence, for glory; independent Christians, inconsistently enough, lust for dependents. They want followers. Either people who think like them, or people who value what they’re doing. They may bash other leaders, but they sure do covet those positions. And titles. And paychecks.

And they’re astonished, as Jude pointed out, by the grace God pours out to ministries other than theirs. Why do those churches get all the members? Why do those missions get so much funding? Why do those pastors have so many Twitter followers? Why do those websites get all the traffic? Why, we’re just as good, if not better. Must be the devil blocking us.

Y’know, this sort of godless jealousy plagues far more Christians than the rebellious ones. I admit it bugs me when people would rather read some ninny’s blog than mine. Seriously, some Christian blogs are written by some really ignorant people. But if they’re pointing people to Jesus, we’re on the same team, and I have no business being jealous. We’re not working for God’s gain, and he’s working for everyone’s gain—a relationship the go-it-alone sorts are never really gonna understand.