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Volume 7, Issue 6: Similitudes

Nobody Thinks That

Douglas Wilson

A middle-aged man walked slowly, limping purposefully down the sidewalk. He was in no hurry and stopped occasionally to look in store windows. He was looking for used bookstores but was willing to be distracted. It was an early summer evening.

He came around the corner, and across the way he saw people filing into what appeared to be a religious service in a store-front location. Familiar sight. He crossed the street and walked by the front of the place. Stopping for a moment, he read the sign announcing a healing service inside, smiled slightly, and began to move on.
"Excuse me." He heard the voice behind him. "You are welcome to join us."
Mark turned (his name was Mark) and saw a young man approach him somewhat eagerly, with a kind look on his face.
A wave of nostalgia came over him. How many times . . .
"Please join us," the young man said again. Mark introduced himself and found out the young man's name was Jim.
"No, thank you. I have no desire to be rude, but I have been in many services like this. I have decided not to do it anymore."
Jim paused for moment, as if deciding whether or not to ask. He hesitated . . . "May I ask why?"
Mark thought for a moment and then nodded. He thought it was safe; the bitterness was gone. "I grew up in charismatic churches, but I got out three years ago. I have heard thousands of miraculous claims but I can honestly say I have never seen anything that lasted longer than two days after the revival."
"I hope you still believe in miracles . . ."
"Yeah, I do. Honestly, that's why I left. I'm still looking for a miracle. Haven't found it yet."
Jim looked down at Mark's leg. "I saw you limping. What is wrong with your leg?"
Mark looked down and shook his head. "I brought some shrapnel back from Vietnam. But I can still walk on it, and for that I'm grateful."
Jim gestured an invitation. "If you wanted to come in, we would be happy to pray for you. I'm sure our evangelist would pray for your healing . . ."
"No, thank you." Mark stretched out his leg. "You see this? I've received thirteen prophecies over it, all of them positive, and it has been healed six times. I'd say it was doing pretty good."
"I'm sorry. But if you trust God . . ."
Mark shook his head. "Look. I don't know the Bible as well as I should I have no doubt you know it far better than I do. But this one thing I know once I was lame, but now I am still lame."
The two stood silently for a moment. Although Jim was quiet, he seemed mildly indignant. Finally he burst out. "May I say something?"
Mark looked up. "Certainly."
"Please forgive me if I speak too strongly I don't know youbut my experience was the opposite of yours. I grew up in a church so cold it could have been used to keep produce from spoiling. But when I went to college I got connected with a group of students who really loved Jesus Christ really and they really wanted to apply all of Scripture. I'm sorry, but that includes healing and miracles. Ever since that time, from family, from friends, from everybody, I have heard nothing but story after story of charismatic abuses, as though charismatic churches were the only churches containing inconsistency and hypocrisy in what they do. Believe me, I know there are many abusesI have seen plenty of them myself. But if you don't write off other churches because of abuses, then why write off charismatic churches because of theirs? Corinth was full of abuses."
"I don't want to make you late for services . . ."
"No, that's all right. Forgive me for pushing, but do you see my point?"
"Well," Mark said, "not only do I see it, I agree with it. I didn't leave because of the abuses."
Jim seemed surprised. "Oh. Why did you leave then?"
"I left because of how the abuses were treated, and what that revealed."
"I don't follow you."
"I have seen some unbelievable charlatans. I never met one that I could say believed in the gifts. And I know some wonderful peoplemy parents, for examplewho were disgusted with those people. So I decided the wonderful people didn't believe in the gifts eithernot really."
"Now you lost me. I understand the charlatans not really believing. But why the other?"
"The Bible doesn't say to be disgusted with false prophets. Or to disagree with them. It says to excommunicate them."
"I still don't get you."
"I asked myself this question. Does any church or movement today believe that God still gives biblical signs and wonders to His people, and that the reputation of these signs and wonders is to be protected with biblical jealousy and discipline against all fakes? And I thought to myself, Nah. Nobody thinks that . So why should I?"
Jim sighed and extended his hand. "Well, thanks for talking."
They shook hands, and Mark turned and limped away. Jim stood for several minutes praying for Mark, and then went inside.

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