This Is A Clear And Present Danger To The Christian Community

This passage comes from the end of Peter’s Second Letter. It is his final exhortation to his community. He is concerned with the ever present danger of error and its potential to bring about a loss of stability in the Christian community. This message is a new as it is old, for we are to this day still in danger of theological and doctrinal error in our thinking. This is a clear and present danger and it is always a threat to the stability of the Christian community. There is only one being in all of creation that would have an interest in fostering and promoting error, that is, the Evil One.

Peter is doing his job as the leader of the Christian community here. He is forewarning the believers that there is nothing more destructive to the Christian community than error. It is the source of all tension and, ultimately, of all division among the followers of Christ. Our divisions as Christians, all of them, are often the result of ignorance. But it can also be the result of human sinfulness, of hate and distrust, or worse, of conscious deception, a manipulation of facts, or of emotions. The former can be healed through the hard work of education, prayer, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the latter that is the true danger to us, not just individually, but as a Christian community.

In order to avoid such error, Peter tells us that we must continue daily to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” There are certain means for doing this. The first, of course, is to immerse ourselves in the Holy Scriptures. We must develop the habit of doing this on a daily basis. But we must also develop the humility to recognize our smallness in this. Our “interpretation of scripture might be misguided, or even wrong. That is why we have Christian community and those who are given the gifts of teaching and preaching and administering, etc. These are gifts given by the Holy Spirit for a reason. We are not all capable of these things. While we are given the universal grace of a personal relationship with Christ, we must also recognize in all humility, that in our finiteness, we are capable of, and often vulnerable to, error in interpretation, or understanding. This is why God calls us to live in community. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) Those who are called to study theology, to the ministry, etc., are called so by the Spirit. We all have different gifts but are of One Body. We must do serious self-reflection to discern our own personal gifts. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We are given different gifts…” (Romans 12:4-6)

Error takes us away from this One Body. It causes breaks in the body that cause harm to the unity of the Christian community. The great irony is that error is ultimately deadly to those who foster it. As scripture tells us, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) Fear of the consequences of breaking away from God’s law is rooted in the fear of losing our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the proper fear that we should all develop. It is the primary driver within us to keep us from error. We do not want to fall away from the Lord, either through ignorance or through the blindness of arrogance.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes only on you. Deepen our love for you and for the whole Christian community. Help us to stay clear of any threat of error, small or large. We pray this because we fear the loss of you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.