We’ve all heard it, haven’t we? She says of her husband, “he only hears what he wants to hear.” He says of his wife, “You haven’t heard a thing I just said!” So go the arguments; back and forth. He said, she said; but nobody really heard anything, except, that is, what they wanted to hear.
We’ve all been there at one time or another. We’ve all been guilty. Little wonder this world is so screwed up! Little wonder marriages are so screwed up! Nobody knows how to really listen anymore! We’re all so wrapped up with our own little agendas that, unless someone is saying exactly what we’re thinking, we quickly tune them out. They don’t know what they’re talking about! They’re just a bunch of liberal morons! They’re just a bunch of dumb conservative literalists! How could they be so stupid?
Yeah, we’ve all heard it. But before we say too hastily, “well, that’s the world for you,” let me just say that I’m not talking about the world; I’m talking about the church. Does that shock you? As Paul says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5: 12-13a).
Paul said to Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4: 3-4; NIV).
Friends, all it takes is a quick look at some of the strange doctrines that the charismatic, evangelical and even the catholic churches of today preach, to confirm to us that we are already in that time. When we stop and look at some of the strange s**t taught from many a pulpit today, one has to wonder what’s going on! Where, I ask you, do they get all this junk from? Am I reading a different Bible than they are? Perhaps the logical answer is, “Yes.” But the truth is more likely that they’re hearing simply and only what they want to hear. The truth is, if I don’t preach what they want to hear, they will simple go down the block and find someone who will preach what they want to hear. In other words, they will find someone who will give them what “their itching ears want to hear.”
There used to be a time when the church would practice something called “church discipline” (for example, 1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20; Tit 3:10). Those days are long since gone. As a pastor, if I were to rebuke someone for something, today they would likely simply leave our local church and, snubbing their noses, go across the street to the next church. In today’s day and age when there is virtually no unity in the church, that is doable. In earlier times when there was unity, that was not heard of so much.
Social media today is no different. You question someone on something that, in your opinion, does not line up with the Scriptures, what happens? I’ll tell you what happens, they simply “unfollow,” or “unfriend” you. No big deal, right? There are, after all, plenty of other “fish” in the church, any number of which will give them the time of day if you and I don’t. I saw that this week. I questioned the ethics of a “brother” (???) in the Lord, he took exception, and before I could blink an eye, I was “unfollowed.” Man, it’s a good thing my significance doesn’t lie in the number of Twitter followers!
So what are we to do today? How do we handle so-called Christian brothers and sisters who obviously have a vastly different understanding of the Bible’s teachings that we do? Do they have “itching ears,” or, dare I say it, do we have the “itching ears?” Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it even matter? Ultimately, if there are dissentions and factions in the Body of Christ, all signs of the “sinful nature” (Galatians 5:20), isn’t it really all simply a sign that we have yet to learn how to love one another? Hmm, I wonder.