Why do we listen to false messages and narratives?
As I continue my way through various books of the Bible, I am struck by how many times different authors talk about the same thing – warning about false teachers. Paul hits on this several times. It shows up in the universal letters too. The entire “book” of Jude is about false teachers. (It’s only one chapter, but still – that’s the entire focus of the “book”.)
The Old Testament has warnings about false teachers – often referred to as false prophets.
Why are these false teachers and false prophets so prominent? Why do so many people listen to them? Why are so many drawn to their messages?
Is it as simple an idea as this – that a false teacher tells people a message that they want to hear? Is it a message that requires nothing from the hearer? Is it a message that demands no change or forces no change on the hearer? Is it a message that is satisfactory to the human ears and mind and heart? Is it a message that rationalizes behaviors that are destructive and lead to death?
Why do we listen to these messages? Often, when we read the Bible, these false messages sound appealing (supposedly) on the surface and in the short-term. But all one needs to do is think a little about the long-term consequence to realize the true emptiness of the message.
It’s not just theology either. The same thing applies to politics and policy. It applies to schools. It applies to sports. It applies to health, nutrition, rest, and more. It applies to sex. It applies to relationships.
Yet, these false narratives continue to be popular. And people follow them. And end up with the predictable consequence and wonder why.
I’m not innocent of this. I have fallen for false messages before and most likely will again. But the question remains – why? Why do we do this? Does it get us off the hook? Does it provide an excuse?
But following these false messages makes about as much sense as Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden of Eden. It makes as much sense as Jonah trying to run away from God. It makes as much sense as Peter denying he knows Jesus. You can’t hide from the truth. You can’t hide from God.
And yet God is patient. God waits. God invites – over and over again. And waits. And rejoices when we let go of the false narratives and are turned back to God.