Chapter 3: Heretics make themselves unwelcome in the Church
False assurance and a smug attitude bedevil the heretic. He is so enchanted by his own twisted logic that he loses the ability to doubt his feelings, turning his faith into a fierce fanaticism that seeks to devour the weak and make more converts to his side.
The Church must ask itself: how does this happen? How could faithful people be so beguiled by their own thoughts that they give up on Christ and set aside Gospel values? What has caused them to fail God?
The shame of the Church is this: that those who once espoused a faithful life are now inclined to berate Christ’s followers and subvert the Gospel. The heretic now has his own agenda to destroy the Church from within, looking to corrupt the body of Christ with a disloyal, agitated, and unloving heart.
The Bible is full of fallen servants, whose desires overcome their devotion to God. They are plagued with envy, guilt, and pride. In order to be restored to God’s community, they need to seek mercy and grace, forgiveness and pardon. The heretic cannot bring himself to do this. His false integrity and uncompromising pride makes him withhold his contrition and repentance, leading him into the path of perdition.
Only Christ persevered through life to overcome doubt and temptation, selfishness and sin. Christ’s followers, however, cannot claim the same. Christians from all sacred stations and in all walks of life fall from grace. In doing so, does this invalidate the Gospel? Does their hypocrisy diminish Christ’s authority?
Is faith proven only by our avoidance of sin? Is our grasp of God important to others who want to believe in Him? Have we wrested away God’s sovereignty by our inability to remain true at all times? Are we in danger of losing the Faith by losing our faith? Those who complete the journey of life are true Christians. Those who are still on the path to glory are called pilgrims.
We look for evidence of faith on the outside of a man. We judge his faith by his deeds, not his motives. We are blind to the inward struggle that people of faith often experience. We can only see what we want to see, but God sees further still. All hearts are disclosed to His gaze. All thoughts are known by Him alone.
God knows those who are His and He embraces those who belong to Him, even if they have fallen from grace. God loves the sinner without embracing the sin. And the faithful fallen one seeks His clemency and benevolence, favor and restoration.
Not so the heretic. He remains pure in his own eyes and does not seek the Lord’s favor. He makes his own restitution and belittles those who acknowledge their weaknesses. The heretic wallows in his own thoughts and bathes his soul in his own understanding.
Even amongst Christ’s own company, of those who walked and talked with Him, were some who chose to go another way. His message was too hard to endure; His demands were too high to achieve. They chose to make their own religion and follow an easier way. But not all of Christ’s disciples chose this. Some remained with Him until His arrest. The way was hard, but they kept their hope in the Lord.
In every generation, they are those who start on the Lord’s company, but end up taking their own sides. No church, no community of faith, no congregation of the faithful is without its critics or heretics. Even in the Lord’s solemn and sacred company of apostles was one who would choose to betray Him.
We are naïve if we believe that the Church is perfect and free from heresy. The sad thing to note is this: the Church is the breeding ground for heresy. It strikes from within and causes trouble amongst the faithful. Shepherds of the sheep must always be vigilant and look for leaders of the wolf pack.
In the end, heretics choose schism over sanctification, and division instead of devotion. They are not forced out of the church; they separate themselves from the body of Christ. They enforce their own anathema.