It Only Takes a Spark

red sun ch aug 26 2 IMG_5157

Our beautiful valley is lost somewhere in the smoke. Even the sun has trouble finding it.

It’s hard to breathe. Our eyes sting. We keep clearing our throats to rid them of irritating “particulate matter.” A thin layer of ash covers everything, and since we are on water restrictions we can’t use the hose to wash it off.

We pray for rain.

It’s hard to imagine how someone tossing a cigarette out the window could cause worried parents a thousand miles away to rush their asthmatic child to the hospital. Such is the nature of sparks.

I read this in the book of James today: It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (James 3:5,6 The Message)

Just before this James warns: Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (3:1 NIV)

Here’s the thing. Ideas have consequences. A teaching that is off by only a degree will have negative repercussions years or generations later. Sometimes it’s difficult to make corrections to an idea that has been around for a long time. It’s impure light can taint an entire environment.

We are not called to condemn people, but we are called to use discernment. We are told that prophecy needs to be judged, that we need to cling to Jesus’ sound doctrine, that we need to test the spirits and not believe everything we hear or read. That’s wisdom, not unauthorized condemning judgment. That’s taking responsibility for oneself. Most of all we need to be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love. Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. (2 Corinthians 13:5 Amplified)

The second verse in James 3 says: We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

I have known many excellent teachers. The best ones avoid throwing words out carelessly, but none of them are yet perfect. Rejecting everything a person has taught because they have been wrong on some point is equally as foolish as swallowing everything any public figure has ever said. Some are more reliable than others, but no one person has the complete picture of God. To reject a person’s contribution to the pool of knowledge because of an error is to assume that there are teachers out there who are without error. And that, my friends, is a set-up for spiritual abuse.

We have an example of correction when Priscilla and Aquilla, who had a relationship with Apollos, took  him aside and taught him more thoroughly. They didn’t stop him; they helped him become better. They built him up; they did not attack him or tear him down.

Let me clarify something here. Jesus knew the hearts of mankind, He knew who was not trustworthy, so he didn’t open his heart to them. He gave very stern warnings to those who would cause an innocent to sin. He added: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

There are times to confront sin and even times to call the police. I’m not talking about covering for rapists, pedophiles, scam artists or other law-breakers here. He gives procedures for that kind of confrontation, but it is always with a view to restoration. Sometimes, alas, a person becomes so toxic to others that protection for the vulnerable is a higher priority. Those not willing to change need to be separated and warnings to the public may be necessary. But this is serious stuff and not accomplished by a stranger’s blog or Facebook rant. What I am talking about is inaccurate teachings; I’m not talking about outright sin and denial of sound doctrine (who God is) or  abuse of power. I’m talking about careless words, human error, or incomplete understanding.

Here in southern British Columbia we are still choking on this wretched forest fire smoke that tints everything with orange/brown light, and hides our landmarks. But eventually the rains will come. The temperatures will drop and the fires will die down. We will again have clarity in our vision. The past few weeks have proven that the best efforts of men cannot control the consequences of fire. We are still dependent on the Maker of heaven and earth, which is as it should be.

And we pray for rain.

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