There is a children’s song, one that I don’t particularly care for, that says:
O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear
Now, I don’t like this primarily because it is rather incomplete. God the Father doesn’t simply look on distantly waiting to zap us if we misbehave. So as far as songs for kids or for church, and because this song lacks anything of the Gospel, I’m not too keen on it. However, there is a useful warning: “be careful what you hear.”
Scripture repeatedly warns the people of God to guard themselves against false teaching. In looking at the counsel of the Word of God, we see that God’s concern about true and false teaching is not simply to win an argument on the internet, but at the center here is faith and salvation:
- Jesus said ““ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:8–9, ESV) – Note, here Christ connects right worship with teaching and faith. It is not that Christ condemns doctrine, but that which is the “commandments of men” taught as God’s doctrine.
- “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:17–20, ESV) – It is that which is contrary to the True doctrine of our Lord revealed in Scripture that causes division. Those that introduce these false doctrines (obstacles) serve either knowingly or unknowing not the Lord, but their own hearts and ultimately Satan.
- “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–15, ESV) – Christ established the Office of the Ministry “to equip the saints” and “for building up the body of Christ”… “so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro… by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning…” – Part of the job of faithful pastors is to not only guard against but equip the whole body of Christ to stand against false teaching. This task, however is undermined when Christians knowingly listen and learn from those who are false teachers.
- “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:7–9, ESV)
- “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1, ESV)
- “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 8–9, ESV)
- “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1–6, ESV)
Scripture doesn’t leave this as an open question. Christians simply are not to tolerate false teaching. Sure, we ought rejoice when a loved one comes to faith, however, we do not rejoice that they remain in fellowship with (that is go to church where) false doctrine is taught.
In this day and age, this may seem “mean” or “unloving”, however taking the position grounded in Scripture is actually the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor. We should pray that our loved ones turn from error and false teaching, because in the end, false teaching hurts people by undermining the Gospel.