Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on or in the open water of a sea. What’s that? How far? Thirty feet offshore. That’s all. Been 30 feet offshore?
Last month I had the joy of going to the Alabama beach with my Grandmother, sisters and oldest cousins. It was a wonderful trip and everyone had plenty of opportunity to get some sun on the sand or bob up and down in the surf. I spent about five hours in the water, enjoying the Gulf of Mexico’s warmth and trying to time my jumps with the incoming waves so I wouldn’t drown. The farther I wandered offshore the more difficult it was to stay above the waterline. The more I struggled to stay afloat, the farther away from my beach entry the tide carried me. At one point, my cousin Bobby and I found ourselves about 30 feet off course, gradually and innocuously pushed sideways by the pounding surf.
You see, the tide wasn’t moving directly towards the beach, though it was hard to tell from the shore. No, the tide was moving diagonally. In its deception, it carried every swimmer off course without alerting us to this fact. Waves can be dangerous. Add in rip tides and jellyfish and it’s a wonder anyone gets in the water at all! But we almost all do.
“For certain men … have secretly slipped in among you. These men are … clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 3, 12-13)
“We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph 4:14-15)
As a Christian, waves can be dangerous as well. We’re not talking physical waves this time but spiritual and emotional waves. Philosophic waves. Scientific waves. Waves that sweep our imaginations and emotions off their feet and carry them in directions that seem to be straight and true but really are deceiving. Both Jude and Paul warned their readers about waves. Jude said that some men had infiltrated the community of believers and were carrying away good Christians with their false teachings and craftiness. These men are doomed, Jude writes, and add nothing beneficial to the Body of Christ by their words.
Paul writes that we shouldn’t be carried away by the waves of doctrinal disputes, trickery, scheming and the like. In 1 Timothy 1 he adds to the list intellectual and genealogical arguments, like myths and controversies. They seem to be good waves, headed for shore true and certain, but instead carry a believer away from the truth and, even worse, distort the truth to make it sound right. But it’s not. By the time someone on shore spots the wave-battered Christian, they have been carries off course and are struggling for air.
What’s our answer to the wave issue? Speak the truth — in love — and grow up in the image of Jesus Christ. In other words, focus on your walk with the Lord and how you can be a better disciple of His, ignoring controversies and myths and emotional waves. A more appropriate way to say this is: If you’re gonna get into the water, better make sure your feet are firm on the sand beneath. Don’t leave the sand unless you’re coming out of the water.
How do you avoid getting carried away? By practicing what you’ve been taught. Is Facebook tripping you up? Stop checking it 10 times a day. If you see a political opinion or theological argument, don’t click the link to follow it. If you get upset at the radio preacher or the TV guy or, whatever, then stop listening, don’t watch and instead open up God’s word and start reading (preferably someplace other than Job, Leviticus, Lamentations or Ezekiel, OK?). Seek to follow Jesus. To become like Him, to act like Him, to bless like Him, to endure shame and ridicule like Him, to… take up your cross and follow Him.
In fact, if you don’t think you can handle the waves, it’s probably best to stay out of the water.
With love and grace,