We are often told to pay special attention to the little things because it is the little things that matter. True enough. It is the little foxes that ruin the vineyard (Songs 2:15).
But, like the church in Jesus day, we are capable of getting our observance of the little things down to such a fine art that it actually does more harm than good.
Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)
It is possible that while we are busy trying to spear the gnat, you know, things like bad language, bad habits and bad manners, that a much larger beastie can wander into the paddock unnoticed.
Our current secular world has such a beast. An unholy trinity. A counterfeit of the triune God who rules the world.
Their father claims absolute authority, their son is an incarnation of depravity and their spirit dopes the masses by amusing them to death. We have a materialistic state, a culture of sodomy, and the fog of nihilism.
It seems hard to believe that such obvious rebellion could get a foothold in the Church, but it does, and throughout history, it has.
Why did Paul have to tell the Corinthians that cursing Jesus was not to be done? (1 Corinthians. 12:3). Why did the Lord Jesus have to tell the saints of Thyatira that knowing the depths of Satan and tolerating the teachings of Jezebel was not a good idea? (Revelation 2:24).
I’ll tell you why. It’s because they were into all these things and all these things had gotten into the Church.
It happened while they were worrying about who baptised who. It happened while they were all singing kum ba yah and meeting felt needs with late-night backrubs. It happened while they had their heads in the teapot, peering at gnats, carpet squares and fancy-dress fetes.
The bad news is that we live in a culture whose sin stands out like three camels in a teacup. The good news is that we have three very large and hard-to-miss targets. What shall we hit them with?
True words. Good doctrine, spoken up loud and clear so that Jezebel and her children will hear it. Hard truths, spoken without fear and thought of favour.
We do this because we are convinced that the Gospel doesn’t just save us from the little foxes. It takes aim at the big ones and brings them down – invariably on top of the smaller ones.
Much of our talk about the big idols is so subtle, so carefully put, that it has failed to hit any target whatsoever. Preaching, if it contains any rebuke at all, rarely goes beyond, “not conducive to human flourishing” and a little moralist finger-wagging at the believers.
But if we would see people saved, and if they would see Jesus clearly, then it is going to have to be by the kind of patient, crystal-clear teaching and preaching that would come from men like Paul. No subtlety whatever – my sin and the Lord’s blood.