Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Meaningless Talk

I Timothy 1:6-7

“…Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm…”

Let’s be honest – this is the sort of talk from Paul that makes us uncomfortable. It is made more difficult by the fact that we have no idea who he is talking about! One is tempted to suggest that they were personal enemies, or people who simply didn’t like his attitude towards women (!), but we just don’t know.

It is a serious thing to charge that another person has “wandered away” from the faith, or to assert that someone else doesn’t “know what they are talking about.” Whenever I hear these charges, especially in a church committee meeting, I instinctively react, because these are the kinds of words which are thrown around carelessly by certain Christians.

But it does happen, and for one who is grounded in a solid theological foundation, certainly it is, at times, appropriate to say, “Ummmm …. you’ve crossed the line!”

In Cameroon, many of our pastors were formerly ordained in the Mission Evangelique du Christ, which was, by all accounts, a fairly orthodox evangelical denomination. One day, the church’s leader decided that everything he’d previously believed and preached about Jesus Christ was wrong. He discarded the New Testament completely and turned his congregation into an Old Testament-following, orthodox Judaistic-type sect. Many of the church’s pastors and people determined that their leader had truly “wandered away” from the faith. They decided that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

And so they left, in a mass exodus, from his church. Fortunately, several of those pastors found their way into the United Methodist Church of Cameroon. We have benefited from their theological acumen and their spiritual depth. Thank goodness, like Paul, they knew the difference between meaningful and meaningless talk.