Sunday, October 5, 2014

The serpent in the pew

Recently I was at a gathering where a list of 'ungodly' behaviors was read out. Among them were such things as gossip and slander and witchcraft, among others. The person reading the list said, "Of course we know there's no witchcraft in the church..." and went on to discuss the idea that there are no little sins and big sins to God. They're all sins. 

Hmm. Yes, yes all sin is sin in God's eyes. There is no difference. Gossip and murder are on a par. Lying and idolatry are all the same to Him.

But dismissing a particular sin because it's not obvious or doesn't fit the current definition of what the world thinks something is? 

I received a teaching on this particular practice (of witchcraft) a few years back. Basically the teaching went back to the original root words that make up the term for witchcraft. It is a compound word meaning control, manipulation and intimidation. WELL then! I believe we have a serpent in the pew, because I can't count the number of times I (and others in the church) have used manipulation and intimidation to control other people in the same family ... the family of God. 

It starts with the word "should." (Oh how I HATE that word!) We SHOULD be living holy lives. Our lives (i.e., the end product of our lives) SHOULD be this or that way (we do this with everything, even things like what folks should eat, wear, listen to, etc.) 

Photo "Blue Butterfly" by
dan at
And then it morphs. Our own pet beliefs (which have nothing to do with the Gospel) start infringing on it, and we start thinking that they are part and parcel of "the whole counsel of God." This particular person SHOULD be letting me do what I feel I am called to do, and I SHOULD have the right to influence this or that person's behavior because it's obviously flawed (because it's not the way I would do it). 

It's like this. The desire to control other people comes from an inborn need to feel safe and comfortable. The problem arises when we think we can do something to cause that change - enter manipulation (for example, guilt trips). And intimidation (for example, [adult] temper tantrums). The end result of this is that we get to thinking that it's our responsibility to change others. So we use those tools (er, weapons) and try to do the job that only the Holy Spirit is qualified to do. 

That's witchcraft.  That's the serpent.

Knowing that there is such a thing can help us identify it in ourselves and agree with God that it is not something we want in our lives. Not because we need to "toe the party line" but because Jesus has given it all for us, and through His death God declares us NOT GUILTY. That (and that alone) kills the serpent. We are transformed.

We are made free.

Through gratitude, then, we offer our lives up to Him to do with as He wills, to worship and adore Him in spite of our own perception of our failings. Others' failings will not matter. Our focus is Him. And no matter what the problem is, HE is the answer. Even if it's the serpent in the pew.

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