The police wanted to search my purse. I was going to lunch at a hospital cafeteria near where I work, and as I walked in the door a uniformed officer said, “Excuse me, ma’am, I need to look through your purse.”
My family, who think of me more in terms of Mayberry than of Gunsmoke, couldn’t quite take this seriously. My husband asked me later, “Did they find the Lost Chord?” And my daughter, tuned in with the rest of the world to our neo-notorious local events, asked, “Did they find the key to the Seventh Seal?”
It seems fair to wonder: From what kind of messiah, what kind of prophet, evolves a situation where “Aint Bea” is searched for weapons?
Certainly not one like Jesus.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is understandably embarrassed at being identified with that pitiful cult, the remnant of which as I write is still barricaded on a bleak Mount Carmel east of Waco. But what disturbs me, as an aspiring disciple of Christ, is to hear the name of Jesus connected in the same breath with the name of their counterfeit prophet.
Obvious differences in the behavior of the two occur to anyone even casually acquainted with the life of Christ.
Jesus instructed his followers not to fight. One volatile disciple (who would have shot from the hip if he’d had a gun) just didn’t get it at first and tried to defend his beloved leader with a sword, but Jesus stopped him immediately and healed the wound he had inflicted.
“Put up your sword,” Jesus said. “People who live the sword, will die by the sword.”
No one died trying to serve a warrant on Jesus. He had offered himself quickly and peacefully to soldiers who came to arrest him — on a false charge. At the same time, he interceded for his disciples: “I’m the one you’re looking for. Let these people go.”
“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told his interrogators. “If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest.”
In the kingdom of Christ, the only sword not hammered into a plowshare is a spiritual sword — a formidable weapon nonetheless, with edges keen enough to divide soul and spirit, a weapon that may hurt be will never harm.
The kingdom of Christ operating radically backwards from the kingdoms of the world, is based essentially on the cross of self-sacrifice rather than on gratification or glorification of self.
Jesus taught in the open, in appropriate places, and only to willing listeners who were free to come and go at will.
In exchange for a broken promise, the spurious king on the spurious Mount Carmel extorted the airwaves for a rambling exegesis of highly symbolic scriptural material, while his actions blatantly violated plain Bible teaching. I am ever a lover of Scripture, but I know that ability to quote Scripture for an hour is not a sure sign of heavenly wisdom. The proof of true wisdom and understanding, according to the Bible writer James, lies in a pure life, a humble mind and merciful actions. Earthly, devilish wisdom leads to “bitter envy, selfish ambition, disorder and every evil practice.”
Jesus, in a shorter sermon on another mount, warned. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.”
It doesn’t take a spiritual genius to judge that the self-proclaimed lamb just east of Waco is a sexually and emotionally exploitive egomanic false prophet, wrestling the Scriptures to his own destruction and the destruction of his unfortunate followers.
I am ever a lover also of the true Lamb, who stood dumb before his unworthy shearers. His words, when taught in their simplicity and purity, lead to sanity, freedom and peace.
The only weapon the police found in Aint Bea’s purse among the lipstick and cookie recipes was a little Bible — in Christian circles sometimes called a sword. But it didn’t get me in trouble and they let me keep it.
So far, the aberrant ramblings or destructive fruits of false prophets have not led to the confiscation of this pure weapon. May it ever be so.