The two cute kids sit on mommy and daddy’s record player and look out the window. The little girl smiles in wonder and raises her little finger up to the heavens. “Oh, look ‘Zay-ah it’s the sun! Isn’t it bootiful?” She then pecks him on the cheek and smiles.
She’s so excited to see this beautiful sunset. Her brother…not so much. In fact, he lovingly but confidently proceeds to burst her little bubble. “Uhmmm…that’s not the sun,” he says in his big brother voice, “that’s a reflection of the light into the window”.
She argues. He argues. Then he “turns off the sun” and proves his point. She’s disappointed.
As the pastor walks into the church building he is greeted by enthusiastic church members. They are bubbling over with excitement. You see last night they watched a movie that “proved” the existence of heaven. And they are stoked about what this movie will do for the kingdom and what it did for their own faith.
The pastor is now in an awkward spot. He now knows that the excitement is because this lovely couple spent their Saturday evening date by watching the Heaven Is For Real movie. He has read Tim Challies’ review and nodded his head in agreement with our 3 reasons not to be a big fan of all these “I went to heaven” movies.
So what should he do? What is a person to do whenever fellow believers get really excited about something but the thing they are excited about is filled with untruth? Do you whack them upside the head with your Bible? Do you just laugh like a nervous school boy and pretend you loved the movie too?
I’m convinced that none of the above options is the path to go. Instead the best response is to be like the little boy in the beginning of the story—though perhaps with a bit more tact.
Whack-a-Dolt Isn’t an Option
I suppose one option would be for this pastor to smack some sense into this happy couple. “You went and saw WHAT movie? And you liked it!?!?” After flogging them with his angry tirade and litany of Bible verses he could then start the church discipline process.
I’m being a tad facetious but I’ve seen believers respond to error in a similar fashion. In fact I’ve likely done such a thing myself. Scripture does tell us that we ought to rebuke those that are in error. If somebody is holding a grenade then I’d be terribly unloving to giggle as they blow themselves up. Wrong views of God are deadly and should dealt with swiftly.
But it seems to me that the places that speak of rebuking one another always puts in qualifiers to do so with love, gentleness, and respect. Besides, there is much wisdom in the words of Richard Sibbes that we would do well not to kill a fly on the forehead with a mallet. You could do a great deal of harm by squashing their enthusiasm and excitement.
Nervous School Boy Isn’t an Option
Part of me wants to give this one a little more credence than the whack-a-dolt option. After all Jesus did advise his disciples in a somewhat similar situation with these words: “For the one who is not against us is for us.” I’m sure that the creators of Heaven Is For Real want people to believe in the reality of heaven and come to faith in Jesus.
But I’m also not convinced that good intentions equals a free pass. Heaven Is For Real and other “I’ve been to heaven” type of books are damaging to biblical faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” If this movie causes you to say, “Now I know it’s real”, then I don’t know if you have biblical faith. In fact you’ve essentially just said, “I can’t trust the Bible that heaven is real, but now that this little boy has been to heaven I just know that it’s true”.
Just as the little boy in the illustration couldn’t sit by and let the lie of a fake sun continue, so also faithful believers cannot allow excitement over untruth to go unmentioned.
The Truth in Love Option
The best option is to speak the truth in love. Now saying such a thing might not be that helpful unless it is explained. The guy that whacks a person over the noggin with Holy Writ uses this verse to justify his actions. And the same chap that “lovingly” speaks half truths does the same. So what does speaking the truth in love actually look like in practice. Here is how I see it.
- Make sure that this really is a sufficient enough error to confront. If you’re just upset that they cast Kirk Douglas instead of Kirk Cameron for the lead role, then you probably shouldn’t mention it. Likewise there are disputable matters that we can cover in love. If it is something that needs to be challenged proceed with grace…
- Affirm the positives. The reason why this person is excited is probably really good. Likely they believe this movie will cause people to have faith in Christ. That is a very good thing to get excited about. Likewise they are probably excited that people will affirm biblical truth—that heaven is for real. That is a good thing. Affirm those. Not just in passing either—really affirm them.
- Gently point out the errors. Ask though provoking questions. Take them to the Scriptures and consider whether or not the things in that movie stand up to God’s Word.
- Point them to Christ. It can be challenging to our faith whenever something that we got so excited about is exposed as not theologically helpful. Celebrate Jesus and his finished work with them. Celebrate the fact that heaven is for real and it is secured for all of those that have faith in Christ. Ground your unity with one another in the finished work of Christ and put the focus of their excitement in the proper place.
I believe you can apply these anytime that someone is excited about untruth.