An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 13)

2 Kings 6:15-17 ESV  When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  (16)  He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  (17)  Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

What if the Lord opened our eyes as He did those of this young man? That is, what if we could see people and events as they really are? The Apostle John exhorts us to “test the spirits” because many false prophets are around us claiming to speak for the Lord. We are to compare what they are saying and doing with the light of God’s Word. But what if we could literally see people for who they really are? I suspect this is going to happen when Christ comes again and judges the world. We will see who people really are. I mean, even their appearance will cease to be deceptive to our eyes. What will they look like? I think of a horde of evil beings gnashing their teeth energized by pure evil.

Well, what I would like to do in this article is to describe for you some people who are typical church members. Professing Christians who fill the pews each Sunday. Some are “pillars” of their churches. Others preach and teach. Still others are the busy bees buzzing around in the various committee meetings and “ministries.” What do they look like to the Lord? What would they look like if we could see them as they truly are?

Meet Andy. You can find him greeting people each Sunday at the doors of the church building, a wide smile on his face and a warm handshake for men and hug for the women. Open our eyes that we may see. Andy is a habitual fornicator, an indulger of his lust quite regularly. Some years later Andy will abandon his wife and take up with his current desire.

And here is Richard. Richard first came to the church in apparent anxiety and grief. His third wife had left him and he said he was contemplating suicide. Richard was gushing with tears and the pastor felt great empathy for him. Richard was welcomed into the church. But Richard is a sexual pervert. He has an entire history of feeding his lust in wicked ways. He delights in reading about or seeing the perverse. And Richard is a master at “plausible deniability.” That is, he will do or say things that are perverted and wicked, and yet he will select a setting to do them in where his evil will have to be explained or excused with something like, “oh no, I didn’t mean that. You misinterpreted.”  And we fall for it because “oh, surely no one would actuallyh openly do such a thing for evil purposes.” For example:

  • At a Bible study, Richard goes off on a tangent about weddng rings and in a group of men, women, and children, he says “I had sex with lots of women I wasn’t married to, all the while wearing a wedding ring.” The group fidgeted with uncomfortableness, but surely Richard must simply be “rough around the edges.” In fact, Richard says such things because he is being a verbal voyeur.
  • After a Sunday church service, Richard engages the wife of a board member and says, “I had a dream about you last night.” On another similar occasion he said to a woman, “well now, to help you understand a rape victim’s feelings, imagine that I raped you.”
  • And at a church picnic where there was a swimming pool, Richard debuts in a small speedo, very tight set of swim trunks. As people are embarassed, he says, “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot my regular trunks at home.” Once again, people accept his excuse. But in truth, Richard is a pervert and he is willfully and purposely exposing himself.

Richard would go on to cause division and strife in the church and the pastor would have to confront him. Richard would leave in anger, never to return, but if by chance you ever encounter him – he will be all smiles, as if nothing ever happened.

Anthony is a rather striking looking man. He dresses and grooms himself impeccably and has an appealing social style as well. Anthony is an Afro-American. (I mention this because he will use it as one of his abusive tools). Anthony comes to church at the invitation of another church member who goes on and on about what a wonderful Christian fellow Anthony is. And before his feet have hardly hit the floor inside the church entrance, Anthony turns on the charm. He has stories about how he has links to an NBA team and how he has coached at a Christian college. He energetically enters into discussions in the Sunday morning class.

That week, the pastor receives an email from Anthony. It began in a flattering way commending the pastor for his sermon and the church for being so warm and welcoming. Anthony then says that he would like to meet with the pastor and begin regular ongoing “discipleship” sessions.  The pastor replied to Anthony, thanking him for the encouragement, but regarding the discipleship request, he told Anthony that the regular classes and services of the church were the primary venues of discipleship and if he would plug into those, he would receive plenty of discipleship training.

Anthony’s response? “Well, it is obvious to me that you simply do not have time for people like me.” The pastor, who had wised up by this time in his career, replied with, “No, Anthony, I do not have time to give you special attention. If you want to grow in Christ, then you need to do so just like everyone else in the church.”

Anthony never came back.

The pastor decided to do a bit of checking up on Anthony’s history. With information obtained from the fellow who invited Anthony to church, some phone calls were made. First, Anthony never had any real connections with an NBA team. That was entirely fiction. Nor had he ever coached at a Christian college or any other college. And most troubling, when the pastor phoned the pastor of a church where Anthony had attended, that pastor literally shut down when asked about Anthony. He said, “I do not discuss that subject with anyone. Our church has decided to never speak of his time here.” End of conversation.

With some additional checking, the pastor learned that Anthony’s “style” was to come to a church, turn on the charm, and particularly target that charm on the pastor. Something had happened to the pastor of that church so serious and shameful that he refused to even talk about it. In fact, as it was eventually learned, Anthony had actually lived with that pastor’s family for some time.

But there is more.

Anthony enamored and harmed another fellow and they eventually became roommates. The arrangement was helpful finanically, but it wasn’t long before things took a very bad turn. When the roommate told Anthony that this was not working and that he would be moving out, Anthony threw himself down, feigning a seizure of some kind, and the roommate called an ambulance. The EMT’s told the roommate after initial examination that Anthony was faking it and pretending to be unconscious. While Anthony was hauled off to the ER, the roommate took the opportunity to move out.

What would such people look like if we could see them as the Lord sees them? Would they be some demonic type of being? We know that the servants of the devil, like him, can appear as sons of righteousness – angels of light. But that is just a facade. A disguise. What do they look like, really?

Someday we will know. But in the meantime, we must be wise. Never forget, Andy, Richard, and Anthony are all real people. Their names have been changed, but these are not fictitious people or events. And in fact, they were all encountered in local churches, claiming to be fine and true Christians. 

There are far, far more of these kind in churches mixing it up with the sheep than most of the sheep even realize. We must be wise. As good old Matthew Henry reminds us, it is a proverb that the nearer the church, the further from God. And it is the Andy’s, Richards, and Anthony’s who give rise to that saying.

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