Much good has been brought about by political, cultural and theological movements. Desegregation was just one of the positive results of the civil rights movement. The United States of America exists because of a revolutionary movement. The Reformation put Bibles in every household and grace back in salvation. There can be no doubt that movements can produce great change.
However, what dangers do movements bring?
Often times movements unhelpfully create an insider/outsider dynamic. Those who don’t get on board with every aspect of the movement are shamed and excluded. This often results from an inordinate amount of hope placed in a movement, leaving its adherents unable to bear failure. This deep fear of failure disallows any criticism of the movement resulting in shaming those who do. This fear of failure stems from a lack of trust in our all-powerful God, and the shaming that follows is in direct contradiction with Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39); turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39); and love our enemies as ourselves (Matt. 5:44).
Secondly, sin is often excused in leaders of a movement or in the movement itself in order to maintain momentum. Members of the movement may hesitate to expose sin in a particular leader because they are afraid to jeopardize the movement. This hesitation often stems from arguments such as: “Look at all the good they are doing,” or even more foreboding, “Look at all the amazing ways God is using them.” There can also be a reluctance to criticize any aspect of the movement for fear of slowing momentum of the movement or being placed in the outsider group.
The Lovely: A right approach to movements
At the height of Israel’s prominence, King David committed adultery and murder. Many people were aware of David’s sin, but many of them didn’t challenge him as far as we know–except one. Nathan was willing to call out Israel’s king, the man after God’s own heart. Thankfully, David responded well to Nathan’s admonishment and his repentance is a model for all believers (2 Sam. 12:13; Ps. 51). David was saved and Israel’s faithfulness to the Lord extended, perhaps. Nathan no doubt supported the movement of God establishing and furthering David’s kingdom, but he recognized something others missed. Nathan knew that his first allegiance was to God and his Word.
God uses movements of all kinds, but each movement and its leaders must be faithfully weighed by Scripture. We must always feel the freedom to criticize those we support when necessary. Ostracism may result. However, we must remember we will never be cast out from the Lord. It’s Him we are called to be faithful to above all else, not any movement. After Jesus heals the man born blind in John 9, the Pharisees interrogate and condemn him, and his parents wash their hands of him. Then we read these beautiful words: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” (John 9:35).
No political candidate, cultural leader, pastor or spiritual leader will live up to messianic expectations. We have one Messiah and only He deserves our ultimate trust and faithful obedience. It’s better to be faithful in the eyes of the Lord than popular in the eyes of the whole world.