“Faith consists, not in ignorance, but in knowledge, and that, not only of God, but also of the divine will.” – John Calvin
“He who shall not be named.”
In the world-wide popular series Harry Potter this phrase is quoted many times. The characters are referencing, Voldemort, the main villain of the book. His name, to some, should not be said out loud in fear of what would happen. Yet, it is interesting to note, the when the lines are drawn and sides are taken, those who were not afraid to speak his name were the ones who confidently took the side against him. Those who felt the fear of Voldemort’s name were either swayed to his side or questioned which side was right.
Many say, “art imitates life.” This means that our works such as paintings, sculptures, and even the narratives we craft reflect the realities around us. These cultural artifacts unveil our inner thoughts. They paint a picture of how we interact with the world around us.
This situation from Harry Potter reveals something that the church could take to heart and learn from.
These are Things That Shall Not be Named
“I was raped.”
“I got pregnant with my boyfriend.”
“I think I am attracted to other guys.”
“What about my body image?”
“What is so bad about anorexia, it is my body.”
“What does the Bible say about smoking weed?”
“What is so wrong about…”
“These are things that shall not be named!”
Isn’t that the response many of us face in the church? These statements and questions are things many ask in the church to their pastors or parents, and yet they are turned away. With a quick response and a Bible verse to meditate one, he or she is sent off.
Why is that? Ephesians 5 comes to mind where two verses stand out:
v. 3 – But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.
v. 12 – For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret.
Sounds like it is a done deal. But is it?
When we take a look at the context of the whole passage, we see that in verse 3 a believer should not be participating in these sinful acts. The key in verse 3 is participation.
But, verse 12? Is it saying that we cannot talk about sin and call sin as it is? No. In verse 11, Paul says not to participate in sin, but to expose it. How can one expose sin if one does not know about it? In fact, Jesus says something about this. Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Jesus knows what the world is like. He is telling his disciples to be wise. To be wise means you have knowledge. Yet, he tells them to be innocent as doves. Innocence references to actions.
God is telling us in His Word that we need to know about the dangers and sins around us. We need to be wise about them. If we were never to mention things that were shameful, then why does the Bible have stories about witchcraft, homosexuality, murder, incest, mutilations, child sacrifices, and other such things? It is not a command to keep in silent these shameful acts. Instead, Paul’s statement is one that should be of our conscience. “He did something that made me want to throw up.” “I can’t even begin to say how disgusted I was.” Paul is using a phrase to indicate how vile sin is. He is not saying we should never talk about it, but we need to keep the proper attitude towards sin. Our talk is to expose sin, but we should never lose the shamefulness of sin.
Yet, we have a fear of handling and talking about these issues. Paul tells us to expose them. Jesus says to be wise as serpents. God wrote a whole book that involves some of the most shameful acts. Yet, we have this fear and we brush off these topics saying, “we don’t talk about that.” Does that match Scripture?
Searching in Other Places
We may think the story of an individual’s question is done when we say, “It is a sin and here is a verse.” But, how many of us will be honest and say that is not where it ends?
How many people have left the faith, not because of the lack of music or church preferences, but because of being unanswered?
How many young men and young women, today in youth groups, ask why homosexuality, sex before marriage, drugs, and other things are wrong? To answer, many pastors and teachers say the Bible says its sin and that’s it. Their question indicates they have some sense that it might be wrong. However, they want to know why.
Yet, without an answer people turn to other places. They turn to people who will answer their questions. More than likely, the answers will not come from the Bible. Instead, other answers will lead those searching away from God’s Word and substitute man’s words and experiences.
Think about the answers given. Think about where that leads. Be realistic. Where does searching for answers in other places really lead?
What is Wrong with this Picture?
What is the issue at hand? How can we fix this?
Many will say, “It is their fault for not taking God’s Word as true. They did not find it enough. I gave them the verse. They needed to believe it.”
Is that the problem? Does the problem rest in the one who questions in this situation? No. God never condemns one who questions in search of the truth. Did God ever condemn Habakkuk for questioning the evil in his world? Did God condemn Job for asking questions? Did anyone in the Bible who sought truth end up condemned? No.
The issue is not with the questions asked. We have seen that the Bible is full of sins and explanations for why something is wrong. The issue is with the one who answers. To answer with just a verse and to send them on their way is the issue. It reveals the ignorance of the leaders and teachers and parents in our churches.
II Peter 1:3-4 states, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” God promises us that he gave us everything that pertains to life and godliness. It is primarily found in his Word. Yet, we send people with only a verse to answer a question. Why are we not sitting down and showing the answer to the why? God says it is there. Are we not trusting his Word that answers are there?
It is ok to say, “I do not know, but let’s search out the answer.” This cultivates a II Timothy 2:15 attitude in the church. We become students of the Word. When we show our need to rely on the Word for answers, we develop in the ones who question a real-life example of searching and using the Scriptures. Real-life examples are better than lectures on how to study the Bible.
Sit Down on the Bench
When someone goes without a question answered, they feel lonely. They feel like they are left by themselves screaming, but no one can hear them. They are left alone on the bench looking at life. A bench is found on a path. It is used to rest and figure out the next move. They are sitting on that bench.
When we give them only a verse and a shame for asking a “topic that shall not be named” we leave them alone on that bench. The spot next to them is vacant. Anyone can sit down. Anyone can give advice.
Think of your children, the people in your church, those who look up to you. Think of the questions they have. Now think of them sitting on the bench of life. They are resting to figure out which way to go. The spot next to them is vacant. Who is going to fill that spot?
Let’s shake off our fear of topics, which is a fear of ignorance. Shake off the pride of not knowing the answer. Search the Scripture with them. Take time to understand God’s Word and his plan for life. Don’t worry about who you will offend, but think about who you will inspire when God’s Word is searched for the answers. Think about how God will use a believer who faithfully studies his Word.
Let’s change “We don’t talk about that” to “Let me search the answer with you.” This is discipleship.