It’s a heartbreaking as well as bizarre story. A man stands knocking outside the door of his own home. The door is firmly locked while his family believe him to be inside the house with them. Not only so but they have deluded themselves into thinking they are talking to him at the very moment his knocking starts outside. The truth is a collective madness has taken hold of them. I imagine someone, as the knocking continues, opening that door – but they do not recognise the well-known stranger standing before them. He is violently pushed away, despite his pleading and protestations.
The fact of the matter is that it had been so long since the owner had graced his house that the residents had forgotten who he was. And they had, in their madness, created an owner of their own imagination. It is he they honour and it is he they bow down to.
But even worse is that the family claims, within their community, to be representatives of the owner. However, as we have said, the true owner has become unknown to them and the owner they now represent is one they have, in their misinterpretation, rebellion and confusion, made up.
In a passion for the owner of their imagination the family have also founded meeting houses in other communities and even started a Radio and Television Station to share how great and wonderful the owner of their imagination is.
This parable, rooted, as some will have guessed by now, on the story found in the book of Revelation about a church then situated in the ancient Roman city of Laodicea is where I see many similar individuals and organisations within the house of the Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic movement at this moment. The well-known stranger stands outside the door – not only is he knocking but he is weeping over what those who claim to know him have become in their hard-heartedness, vitriol and hatred. Genuine love has been lost and a fake incestuous love has replaced the grace, mercy and tears of the well-known stranger.
The teachings of the well-known stranger have also been sidelined. No longer are his followers’ peacemakers but warmongers whose hearts remain unmoved by the deaths of thousands of children of whom, according to The Stranger his Kingdom consists. No longer do they, as he did, gather these children on his knees and bless them – but bless, succour and encourage those who kill them indiscriminately and daily. What an abrogation of the teachings of The Stranger. And in each precious child torn and ripped apart by bombs and bullets – the God who is The Stranger is torn apart as well – for He is in the child.
God is represented in Jesus, for that God is like Jesus: Jesus is represented in the child, for that Jesus is like the child. Therefore God is represented in the child, for that he is like the child. God is child-like. In the true vision of this fact lies the receiving of God in the child … to receive a child in the name of Jesus is to receive Jesus; to receive Jesus is to receive God; therefore to receive the child is to receive God himself.
George MacDonald (1824 -1905)
Yet to many, including, sadly, some of my friends, the child and the innocent are dismissed and dehumanised as ‘collateral damage’ in the furtherance of a greater goal. Perhaps though we should not be so surprised at all this hatred and destruction of the child and the innocent (even though we are) as the doctrines of a vengeful god of wrath and death have been standard fare in many evangelical groups for generations. If a church in Scotland could hang a woman to stay the hand of their vengeful god – what, to such, are the lives of children in a far away nation? I am not saying all are included in this – but far too many are – including those who preach a God of love.
Is it possible that some leaders within these organisations (they are not the true church of Christ), who call themselves ministers, missionaries and evangelists – and love adding letters and titles to their names for the applause of the world are in fact the modern-day equivalent of the arrogant and proud Pharisees, Sadducees and their followers? Such did not recognise the well-known stranger but forever opposed him and that at the behest of their father the Devil. Of course, eventually, they silenced the voice of The Stranger altogether. They are still doing so.
Such show their support for those who oppose the well-known stranger by flying the flag of those to whom the only law is the law of vengeance and hatred – that of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth and the killing of the innocent for the crimes of the guilty – something dismissed entirely by The Stranger. The law of love is nonexistent. In their blindness for a material Jerusalem and their ultimate goal of seeing the building of a third temple therein, including the reinstitution of animal sacrifices, they have totally rejected the once and for all sacrifice of The Stranger. They long for the the old Jerusalem while forgetting that The Stranger calls us to live in the new. By default such reject the place where the Apostle John reveals there is – ‘no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, are its temple.’ (Rev. 21).
Sadly, the last time I looked for him the well-known stranger was nowhere to be found – I could not even hear his knocking at the door. Nor could I see a reflection of his extravagant love and grace in the houses which claim to represent him. The well-known stranger has departed – and with his departure, the false houses, which claim to represent him (as with the church at Laodicea), will crumble to dust under the unsustainable weight of their own complicity and hypocrisy.