“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned [ emphasis added]. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people [emphasis added].” Romans 16:17-18
These were the instructions given by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, as a warning to stay away from those who seek to deceive the minds of Christians and prey on their naiveté, while serving their own appetites.
The following Facebook comment accentuates to some degree, the naiveté that Paul spoke of:
“I am an evangelical and believe you are painting us with a broad brush. Here’s what I think: we evangelicals do not disagree that the man has been immoral and placed himself in the center of his world. Not so different [from] many others, just with more money and power. Nevertheless, I believe he has the best interests of our country in mind and he has courage. Those of us who support his presidency agree with his vision for the country but we don’t necessarily “like” him. Far far better than the liberal alternative”
May I suggest that during this time of political and cultural chaos, the only “vision” we should be embracing, is our focus on Christ and his teachings – teachings that are at odds with the pseudo-Christianity we see emanating from the White House and an array of prominent white conservative evangelical leaders – a religiosity that focuses on temporal political gains, and not the path to eternal life.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Paul talks about our fleeting life here on earth, and tells us the troubles we encounter here are small, and are exceedingly outweighed by the glory they produce in us that will last forever, so that is where our eyes should be fixed.
Looking to some earthly surrogate savior to deliver us from our earthly troubles, takes our focus off the unseen, and robs us of the glory Paul talks about. The psalmist puts it this way: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save” (Ps. 146:3).
Proverbs 14:12 warns us that deception can make the right seem wrong and the wrong seem right: ‘There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”
If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions — if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before— then I think we must suspect that his “conversion” was largely imaginary.” C.S. Lewis
During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonished his disciples not to judge others, lest they too be judged by the same measure. However, that passage was followed by this admonition in Matthew 7:6:
“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.”
So why did Jesus follow his admonition not to judge, with a warning about casting pearls before swine?
I believe he meant to draw a clear distinction between judgement and discernment. We are not to be hypocritical judges, yet must be able to discern the swine among us, and not cast pearls before them – the pearls being the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To preserve the purity of the Gospel, we must be able to discern good from evil. Romans 12:9 commands us to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good“.
“If we do not oppose evil, we feed it with our silence.” Pope Francis
To expose the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have no other purpose than to walk over it and return to their own evil ways, is casting pearls before swine.
Does This Apply To Those In Authority Over Us?
“So it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are God’s servants, devoting themselves to this very thing.” (Romans 13:5-6 MEV)
Although Paul instructs us to be subject to those in authority – he says nothing about being their apologist or devotee. He also does not presuppose, that as Christians, we look the other way when we discern anyone in authority to have evil tendencies – subjection is not synonymic with silence.
There’s one more thing Paul doesn’t instruct us to do in this passage:
cast our pearls before them – even if the hoof fits.