I was too young for her to be asking me, but she had found out I was “a preacher’s wife,” and thought that automatically made me a font of wisdom. When she finally asked her question, my answer came easily (and with a sigh of relief). The problem was a perfect fit for a scripture in Corinthians and I simply had her read what the inspired apostle said about it. I didn’t have to say a word.
Her mouth hung open in shock. “That’s the answer,” she said. “But why haven’t my own church leaders been able to show me this verse?” It was not a difficult passage to find. Anyone who has grown up attending Bible classes in the church would know where to find it.
The fact that men who called themselves her spiritual leaders could not help her with the same passage gave me an opening, and we began a Bible study that lasted several weeks. I was far too idealistic. I thought when people saw it in black and white, they would instantly change, and that left me wide open for hurt and discouragement. We finally reached a point where her conscience was pricked and she was floundering about, wondering what to do.
“Would you come again next week and talk to my church leaders too?” she asked, and what could twenty-two year old me say, but “Of course, if you don’t mind if my husband comes with me.” She agreed enthusiastically.
All of us met the next Tuesday evening at her home, me with all sorts of great expectations, and an hour long discussion ensued. To make a long story short, they simply told us that they had more faith than we did because they would accept a piece of literature as inspired which contained neither internal nor external evidences, the kind of evidences that make the Bible obviously true. I was flabbergasted, and learned my first lesson—some people will believe what they want to believe, not what is reasonable to believe.
The next week I went to her home on Tuesday morning for our usual study. She met me at the door and, with tears in her eyes, she said, “I’m sorry. They told me I can’t study with you any more.”
“But don’t you want to? I helped you when they couldn’t.”
“I know,” she said. “But they are my leaders, and I have to obey them.”
Talk about discouraging. What do you do when someone who is good-hearted and clearly sees the truth allows herself to be taken in by people who obviously cannot—or will not--even help her with her problems? It isn’t just the stubborn and willful who reject the word of God, another new lesson for me to learn. In fact, it takes strength of will to accept it when it means you must stand against friends and family, and when your life will experience an instant upheaval.
So here is the main lesson today: Be careful whom you trust. Be careful whom you allow to direct your path, and have the gumption to take responsibility for your own soul. If someone who wanted the truth could allow it to slip through her fingers so easily at the word of people who were never there for her until it became obvious their numbers might go down, it could happen to you too. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day looked down on the people with scorn (John 7:49), yet those very people followed them right down the road to Calvary, berating a man who had stood up for them more than once to those same leaders, pushing him to his crucifixion.
And here is another lesson: don’t let your idealism make you vulnerable to discouragement. I will always remember that young woman. We moved far away not long afterward. As far as I know she stayed where she was religiously, and never found her way out of it. But I do have this hope—I planted a seed. God is the one who sees to the increase, 1 Cor 3:6. Don’t ever in your mind deny God the power to make that seed grow. I am not as idealistic as I used to be, but I still hope that someday I will meet her again, standing among the sheep.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3