Chameleons In Sheep's Clothing
by Armando Heredia
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Spiritually we all exist in one of three states, ignorant rebellion, passive acceptance, or informed resistance.
God has given us the gift of self-government. That means we as individuals create the internal laws that we use to control our own selves. (Self control is listed as one of the nine gifts of the Spirit, so rest assured, God is willing to help those who want to be helped.) For most of us our internal code is shaped by our environment. If you grow up hungry in a home or neighborhood that is impoverished you can (to yourself) justify stealing to feed yourself or your family. If you grow up in a wealthy home with no lack you can justify (again, to yourself) a contempt for the poor and live in excess with no feeling at all for the hungry or the homeless. When our internal code makes contact with an external one with which we are not familiar than we reach a crisis point. We are forced to choose one of the three above mentioned states in response.
Ignorance is the manger for poverty. Without knowledge the only perceptible savior is rebellion. Many impoverished nations have seen bloody uprisings with thousands of men, women and children dying brutally at the hands of a civil war that replaces the current government with a new one that is, for all practical purposes, the same or worse than the previous one. Those in power continue in corruption because the masses are not educated to a better way. Ignorance creates a cycle of bondage.
Ignorant people are in a continual internal spiritual and mental war. They are constantly threatened by new and unfamiliar codes and will usually respond out of fear. Of course, ignorance makes a poor base to fight from and the ignorant rebellion usually becomes overwhelmed by their inability to overthrow the machine. Most often they fall into bitterness about their perceived injustices and pull others down and out with them.
“Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”
Ignorant rebellion chooses not to attempt to understand this external code and instead begins to rise up against it. Even though we are miserable (or perhaps because we are) we defend our internal code because our identity is so wrapped up in it. As obscure as this may seem, it does apply to our spirituality. True Christianity in many ways is diametrically opposed to the internal codes that we have carefully developed, especially for the affluent American who is bombarded with the idea that success is measured by wealth, possessions and/or social status.
Jesus Christ brought a new internal code to a people who were wrapped up in external legalities. The religious scholars leading up to His time of ministry had taken an ancient external code and internalized it to their own advantage. The common person was completely at the mercy of the
Temple and its elite. The fact that the common man was ignorant was not the violation, but that they were instructed into ignorance by their teachers. The common man had been taught that they had no direct access to God and were therefore inferior to the religious class. Remember, ignorance is bondage. Though the entire nation was in bondage to Rome, the people of the nation were in bondage to the religion of the Temple. The key to their control was in keeping the people ignorant. This same pattern was used by the Universal Church of the dark ages with much the same result.
We aren’t able to see an entire panoramic of the culture of the day through the New Testament scriptures because they are focused on Jesus and then His followers and then on the churches they established. There were, no doubt, insurrections led by ignorant peasants bent on overthrowing the religious class as well as the Roman tyranny. When the disciples were brought into custody for resisting the established hierarchy one of the Pharisees named Gamaliel referred to two previous unsuccessful uprisings by Judas of Galilee and a man named Theudas. (Acts 5:34-39)
However, most people were content to be ignorant. This state will be referred to in this writing as passive acceptance. Passive acceptance is as detrimental (if not more so) than ignorant rebellion. It is a place of death, where a person exists without a purpose to spur him into action. I would rather deal with one hundred zealots in the midst of ignorant rebellion than with one ignorant person placated by passive acceptance. Passive acceptance allowed the death of thousands of babies on the whim of an insecure king, remember Herod? It allows children, six times the total amount that died in the Twin Towers on 9/11, to die everyday from hunger while wealthy religions and religious people content themselves with their piety and hide behind a façade of stained glass and “holy” living.
It allows people to become commodities in the trade of human slavery called religion. Let me interject this here, religion is as much about human trafficking as the hold of any slave ship. Religion looks at people for their economic worth, willing to place them in bondage to doctrines and rules for the sake of laying claim on the tithe and/or offerings that these people will be obligated to give. I believe that tithing and giving of offerings are Biblical mandates and a part of any healthy Christian’s life, but when that is the end purpose of the organization than that organization ceases to serve Christ and becomes the agent of Mammon.
The moment a religious entity begins to function on the basis of economics it becomes what Christ came to end.
Passive acceptance leads to cold blindness. It is so much easier to sit in darkness than to gather enough wood for a fire. Truth comes in fragments, sometimes truth has thorns, sometimes it is heavy, and it rarely fits into our pre-made little fire ring, but rather than expand our ring we throw down the pieces that don’t fit and wait for the one’s that do, even if they are few and far in between. Passive acceptance preserves its internal code, but in a different way than the ignorant rebellious, it does so by merely allowing that which seems to be to be that which is. I hate to sound too philosophical, so I’ll rephrase that statement. Passive acceptance does not fight what does not fit. It simply takes on the convenient shape necessary to be accepted by the status quo. The inevitable result is a state of inactivity that leads to spiritual atrophy.
In the past sixteen years of ministry I have seen the atrophy of passive acceptance bring great people to a place of complete spiritual ineffectiveness. Atrophy is what happens when you completely cease to use a muscle. The lack of movement causes the muscle to shrivel and become useless. This is a preventative measure designed by God to protect the rest of the body from a perceived injury, disease or infection. The damaged limb is shut off to keep the healthy parts alive. Passive acceptance requires no movement, and no resistance. Resistance however is the basis for strength.
Why is there weakness in the Church? There is weakness because it seems easier to lead a group that passively accepts the doctrines and teachings that come from the establishment. Ask any hard questions and you’ll be labeled as a rebel and treated accordingly. This type of leadership creates a chameleonic group of shape-shifters.
So, the passive acceptance that seems so appealing to those who want to control the trafficked, is ultimately what causes the atrophy and death of its constituents. A weak nation, society, or church is the direct result of leadership that uses ignorance to control its populace. The people will fade into their surroundings and die the death of obscurity. That’s why so many young people raised in a legalistic environment (who weren’t destroyed by ignorant rebellion) so easily fall away from their “faith” when they become adults and get out from under the oppressive government of the legalists. The code is completely external and they have been taught that the best response is no response. They are the epitome of chameleonicity with no identity of their own. Why are they like that? They are like that because of their leaders. They are a direct product of religion. They have no capacity for any other response. I say that men who keep their people in ignorance to bully them into submission will stand in judgment for becoming the enemies of Christ. We’ve looked for a man to call the anti-christ, and there will come one who will embody the type, but we have overlooked the spirit of the anti-christ that is at work amongst us already, speaking in places of spiritual authority and putting men and women into bondage for their own personal gain.
Studies have shown that well over 60 % of Christians leave their faith when they enter college. Religion shrugs its shoulders and points accusingly at the youth or cites the fact that prayer was taken out of schools in the 1960’s when in reality this is the only possible outcome of a system that is about conformity. The dove and the fish have been replaced by the chameleon as the symbol for modern Christendom.
The third response is the state of informed resistance. Christianity doesn’t need a rebellion. The spirit of rebellion will never mix with the purpose of Christ. They are polar opposites, but there does need to be a generation of informed resistors, people who are willing to “know the Truth” so they can be set free. If ignorance is bondage, than knowledge is freedom. The legalist will always hold as suspect the man or woman who dares to question the establishment. Young people are marked as rebellious when they aren’t willing to “accept everything by faith” and play by the rules and yet this is the very thing that will make them strong. Ask, seek, and knock, study to see if these things are so and to show yourself approved. Search out your own salvation with fear and trembling, be ready to give an answer for the hope you have. The truest Christian symbol is a question mark. What is truth? If you take away the right to question you turn Christianity from a rushing mighty wind into a windowless room full of stale recycled air.
Are we willing to take everything that we believe and hold it in question and scrutinize it in light of the Bible? If we aren’t than we forfeit our claim to be “people of truth.” If there is any other document, manual, book or doctrine that takes preeminence over His word, than we must confess to the world, we are not Christians, we are just another stripe, shade or pattern that you are free to choose from among the many others that are available, we are not the flock of Christ, we are a group of chameleons.
Some colleagues of mine told me, tongue in cheek, that I am “the poster child for the fight against legalism.” I’m o.k. with that, but I’m not interested being a part of a rebellion, but a resistance. Christianity cannot be another pattern or shape that I put on when I’m at church or amongst a certain set of people. If I have to change who I am depending on whom I am with, than I am not being true to Christ or His call, there can be no duplicity. If this generation is to become what Christ called the previous ones to be than we have to let them ask the hard questions that make us uncomfortable and peel away the layers of religion that we have added to the faith. We have to be able to help them find an identity that is based on the never changing word of God. If we do this right, we will see them shed the chameleon skin and not die a death of obscurity in the land of darkness.
Christianity has never been about blending in. It has always been about coming out from among the darkness of Babylon into the light of Christ, no matter the cost, or better said, because of the cost.
An interesting note in closing, the word chameleon doesn’t mean color changer. The words referring to the animal chameleon are related etymologically by a reference to the place one would expect to find a chameleon, that is, on the ground. The first part of the word goes back to the Greek form khamai, meaning “on the ground.” The khamaileon is a “lion [leon] on the ground.”*
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. 2 Peter 5:8
He doesn’t need to find you asleep, just with your eyes closed.
chameleon. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved September 11, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=chameleonic&x=30&y=18
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