As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.
Competing philosophies and alternative spiritualities are ever-present in the cultural milieu. God is at work outside of the walls of the church and we would be wise to take notice. However, far-out yarns and ideologies do exist – be they overt or covert – which threaten the spiritual moorings of the Body of Christ.
History shows one such movement occurred when the political pendulum first swung in the favour of the church. In 380 CE Christianity was declared the state religion. Persecution ceased and the church grew dramatically over the following century. This growth was fuelled by many people wanting to be on the winning side. However, the discipling tradition of the previous centuries was undermined by an emerging nominal Christianity. (Shelley Weddell, Fruitful Discipleship.)
Today’s reading illustrates Christian faith received as a gift which should be nurtured and encouraged to grow. This is the everyday life of a Christian disciple, not just a vocation for the professional religious person. But that growth can be frustrated.
Space does not allow me to critique every narrative that is blowing through the church. I can only remind us that they do exist, and we need to be mindful of them. They may be captivating to the imagination, but they can lead us somewhere else entirely.
Prayer May we be mindful of the winds that may blow us away from Jesus But lean our sails into the tailwinds of the Holy Spirit. May we be watchful of the words of Christ coming from unexpected sources But cautious of voices that offer no allegiance to Christ. In his name, Amen.
The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with the North Manchester Mission Partnership