Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Isaiah 63:1-6, 1 Timothy 1:1-17, Mark 11:1-11
Paul had many words of advice for his young colleague Timothy, a budding evangelist carrying on Paul’s mission to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. He warned Timothy to speak out against the heresies that were gaining popularity among the church at Ephesus. One of these heresies was Gnosticism, or the belief that a few special people were privileged to learn secret knowledge about the true nature of God and Christ. Some people also obsessed over genealogies and myths because they believed these contained hidden messages and information.
We don’t really have Gnostic cults today, but there are still those who insist the Bible somehow contains secret knowledge that waits to be unlocked. We can read about alleged “Bible codes” which reveal ambiguous messages that can be found in any sufficiently long text, or special prayers that are cobbled together like magic spells to achieve specific results. Some churches even have levels of access that are supposedly revealed with spiritual maturity but seem directly related to the size of one’s donations.
These distractions from the true Gospel message have one thing in common: the illusion of control. For some people, knowing the secret codes gives them a sense of power over their own lives or the lives of others. In some cases, it even gives them a sense of power over God, like having the PIN to a divine ATM.
One of the beauties of the Gospel is that it is free and accessible to all who would accept it. There is no monetary price of admission and no inner circle to penetrate. It is worth our lifelong study, and it is certainly to our benefit to seek wisdom from others who have studied it, but true bearers of the Gospel know it demands to be shared indiscriminately.
Some people – from conspiracy theorists to serious theologians – get so caught up in controlling the Gospel message that they forget to surrender to it. Of course we want to understand the Bible, but Jesus didn’t invite us to become Bible trivia experts; he invited us to follow him in loving one another.
Comfort: Jesus is eager to be revealed to you, not hiding in code.
Challenge: Don’t be seduced by the fads of faith.
Prayer: Thank you God for revealing yourself to us through Christ. Amen.
Discussion: What things do you try to control?
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