In many situations, especially reading things like this picture to the right, I find it helpful to ask, "IS God saying these things to me? HAVE people really turned on me? Does it have NOTHING to do with me? HAS God removed them from me? Are they gone because it would HINDER me?"
Maybe it's me. Maybe I've been removed from them because I'd hold them back!
Maybe what I'm going through has more to do with me than I would like to admit, so God is pruning me in an effort to save me from some destructive pattern. Look at 1 Corinthians 4:1-5:
"Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.
"Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
"But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth? For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”
My question is this: how many of us paint Christianity in a false light and then destroy those strokes as though they rightly portrayed Jesus? People like Dawkins, Krauss, Ehrman, and Crossan garner large media attention with their controversial views, despite their fringe location in any kind of academically supported role in the historical field of their claims. Nevertheless, they have an audience, and that audience listens, quotes, and so disbelieves where historical evidence does not yet reveal tangible reasons to believe. Sure, scripture may have been proven archaeologically in regards to certain cities and people and events that we once thought fictitious, "but what about this," we might ask?
Better to take our cues from our skeptical culture. Guilty until proven innocent--just like in a court of law...
What's our excuse? Scripture describes how the blind who lead the blind will both fall into a pit. And yet frequently we accept the teachings of others without checking their "facts" for ourselves. Maybe because, like Dawkins, they would make us feel stupid to disagree. Maybe because, as pastors, we assume they are automatically correct and don't need the same checks and balances from the Word and the Body that we do.
Maybe the reason we are so often deceived by political, social, religious, or moral claims is not because those espousing such claims are inherently more devious or deceptive. Maybe it's not because they're evil, or even basically bad, people (in a secular sense). Maybe it's because we don't really care enough to check things out for ourselves. That takes work. Maybe it's because we'd much rather throw in behind those who already believe or teach or preach what we already believe than do the hard work of checking the facts against a higher authority.
I've devoted my life to studying the Word of God and passing on what I learn, and I've noticed a recurring theme. The more I learn, the more I have my old thoughts challenged or destroyed AND find that the Word is more accurate and trustworthy than I previously imagined. That has me thinking that I'm not so wise after all, that I need help to understand many things that I read, and that my learning and understanding is always imperfect. But the Spirit is always there to illuminate what I'm able to digest at the time. When I look at the Word through that lens, and take the time to assess those passages I struggle with--this often includes answering the question, "Why do I struggle with this passage?"--I see that it's not because God has gotten something wrong or slipped up or is now untrustworthy.
Maybe the problem isn't with God, or those I think are holding me back, at all. Maybe I simply tell myself that to avoid the sometimes-painful process of personal growth.
Maybe it's not them at all. Maybe it's me.