There’s been a wave of assorted memes and photos on Facebook created around the Timothy Bible verse: “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine . . . and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. One is a shot of the verse on a well-marked Bible page proclaiming a warning the apostle Paul issued 2,000 years ago.

The comments are more interesting than the verse, not so much the innocuous “Trues” and “Amens,” but the “Yes, it’s going on NOW. Just watch the news!” Yes, horrible things have been reported in the news (and more frequently, not reported in the news) throughout history, but the general import seems to be that today’s horrible happenings are, finally, a fulfillment of this verse. But the issue is, Paul isn’t talking about false teaching and doctrine in the world of men — he’s talking about it smack in the middle of the church. As far as that goes, we in the Christian community have turned away from truth and wandered into myths for years. Here are three popular myths that many Christians, who anxiously re-post the Timothy verse, readily accept that Jesus didn’t teach.

“The Bible teaches us to obey authority.”

Who wouldn’t believe this one, given that significant evangelists with political and corporate ties keep repeating it? Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:17, and 1 Peter 2:13-14 are a few of the favorites. Some people even manage to twist Ephesians 6:2 (“Honor your father and mother”) into a New Testament command to honor, follow, submit to, and pay obeisance to all authority. Before genuflecting with our foreheads to the ground, it’s worth exploring the meaning of the word “authority.”

Secondly, commonsense interprets the idea that we avoid problems by not agitating the rulers. We submit, not because it is a joy to do so, but because we’re less likely to incur the attention and wrath of a system designed to subdue and subjugate the masses so that a few can prosper. Thirdly — the central message of the Bible is not that we obey the authority of man. The central message of humanity, however, is that we obey the authority of (well-placed, dominating, powerful) men.

“If you pray it, then God’s gotta do it.”

Well-known prosperity preachers are not the only ones who latch onto this concept — finding, speaking, declaring, announcing, and claiming promises lifted from Scripture as if no one prior to this, including God, realized that they were there. And because it’s a promise, we tell God, “You promised. You’ve got to come through.” God, who didn’t foresee this loophole, is thereby forced to comply.

We treat God and His kingdom as if it were the human-controlled legal system, in which rulings are made not because of ethics, honor, rightness, or justice but because of a clever twisting of terms. Those who find and use that clever twisting of terms — this is referred to as “faith” — get what they want. Those who don’t, well, their lives look like yours or mine. But commonsense again tells us that if it were truly possible for anyone to speak a promise into existence, then this world would be chaos.

“If anything goes wrong in your life, it’s because you have sinned.”

Bad things happening in our lives are not an automatic sign that God is mad at us and is punishing us into submission. Applying yet again commonsense, is this how we effectively raise children? Sadly, because of assorted evangelical “child psychology experts” who have inserted their voices into a church community eager to eat up anything they dish out, many Christians parent with punishment. And because they are inflexible, shortsighted, and harsh, they figure that God is, too.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and indeed, much of what we suffer is not because God slapped our face, but because men, in the quest for unlimited power and money, hurt other men. Once we get done asking why this is happening to us (generally we stop asking because we can’t get a satisfactory answer), we turn to God, rely upon Him to walk us through it, and emerge a deeper, better, more compassionate person. But we won’t do this if we’re constantly assuming that God is out to get us.

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