The bad fruit of manipulationThe next relationship Jesus addresses in this chapter of the Sermon on the Mount is our relationship with those who claim to speak for God. Unfortunately there are many who would use the guise of faith to control and manipulate others.
My friend and colleague Christopher Judelsohn has offered the following five criteria to identify these dangerous leaders:
- Submission to a particular leader/s: If you are expected to accept a certain person or persons as your spiritual leader/father to whom you must, therefore, submit because they are the ones God is specifically talking to; walk away. Jesus is the only mediator between humanity and God. Yes, there are those called to lead in the Christian community, but we do not 'swear' allegiance to them. Jesus is the head of the church and he calls people into leadership who, together with others, discern what he requires of us. Leadership does not rest on one or two individuals.
- Claims to have the monopoly on the Gospel: If you are told that you can only follow Jesus in that particular community of faith because they are 'right' and others Christians are 'wrong', be careful.
- No transparency and accountability with the accounts/money: If you are refused access to the financials of a Christian community, then beware. There are no secrets in God's Kingdom, especially when it comes to the sensitive matter of finances.
- Spiritual and Emotional manipulation: If you feel emotionally and spiritually manipulated, walk away. Jesus NEVER manipulated anyone.
- Classes of Christians: This is where being saved by grace through faith is not enough and being told that there are other qualifications necessary before you can know that you are a 'true' Christian. This is a popular one, and unless you can do or experience these certain spiritual things, then you are not really a true believer.
Jesus used the idea that a tree cannot but bear the fruit of what it really is. The fruit of a person's life will add or subtract to the credibility of their words. Loveless words prefaced with "Thus says the Lord" should be doubted. Calls for commitment spoken from an opulent lifestyle should be doubted. Ambition for self with little service should be doubted. And the list can go on and on...
Someone once said to a preacher: "I'm sorry - who you are shouts so loud that no-one can hear a word you are saying."
Jesus warns that these kinds of trees will be cut down...
|"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew7:15-20)|