You may not know what a gnostic is. I didn’t when I first started reading the Bible, but they lived in Jesus’ day and are people who think they know everything, and if it’s secret knowledge, it’s even better. To them, knowing the truth is what’s essential, and never being wrong, crucial. No one wants to be wrong; I get that. So, what makes them different from a scientist or mathematician who wants to get it right?
A gnostic has the right teaching in his/her pocket all of the time. They know the facts, but they don’t do anything with them. For example, we all know the story of the Good Samaritan. If you were to ask a gnostic what Jesus taught about loving your neighbor, they would recite the Good Samaritan story, and tell how horrible it was that the priests left a man to die in a ditch, but they wouldn’t lift a finger to help their neighbor given the same situation. They know what the right thing to do is in every circumstance, all the rules, the laws, the nuance of every teaching, but it isn’t part of their character. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. Some might say they are posers, frauds, or hypocrites, and churches seem to have more than their fair share. Truth is not part of their character.
The Clearest Picture
You can develop character anywhere on the planet, but it’s easiest if you have a clear picture of truth. And who has that picture? Could it be someone who studies nature? Could it be someone who listens to their inner voice, the Holy Spirit, or someone who reads their Bible and may or may not go to church? Is it someone who lives in a church or a monastery? Jesus’ life and teachings are the clearest picture of truth and an ideal character, hands down. But just knowing or reciting his examples is not enough.
What is God looking for? Does he want someone who goes to church? The First-century Jewish leaders were in church all the time, and they put Jesus to death. Does God want someone who prays? The Egyptians prayed to frogs and flies. How about gospel bands and church pianists, do they have a leg up; is that who God smiles upon?
I don’t think anyone would say that praying, going to church, singing Christian songs and hymns, and knowing all the right rules and Biblical history are not good, but I don’t think that’s everything God is looking for. Consider the stories Jesus told about the woman with two-mites and the Publican’s prayer. Consider too, Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and how he washed twelve pairs of dirty feet.
I see that God honors service, meekness, humility, and love, and none of those characteristics typify a gnostic. God wants people who know him, love him, and love each other more than they love themselves and do something about it. God wants people who look like Jesus in character. It’s not merely what you know; it’s what you do and why you do it. It’s who you are! And that may include going to prayer meetings and playing for song service. It may include teaching and preaching too.
But it may not include those things at all. There are people I know people who don’t do any of those things but would give you the shirt off their back. They help at food pantries, take weeks off of work to drive thousands of miles taking food and water to people hit by Katrina. They are the first to volunteer, coach their kids’ baseball teams, take everyone to the pool or the lake, or take their friends to Mexico or Silver Doller City. They love people. Whether they know it or not, they have God’s name written on their hands if not their foreheads.
I read the Bible through again last year, and I was struck by how obvious the themes were. Both Old Testament and New emphasized love above all things. It’s one of those things we all know, but we don’t seem to know it as we should. Jesus said all the law and the prophets hang on two commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your strength, and all your mind, and all your soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s love. It’s about our character. And it is something we do.
In the end, there will be two groups of people on the planet: sheep and goats, saved and lost, wheat and tares; those who have the Father’s name written on their forehead and hands and those with the mark of the beast. Life is all about choices and developing a God-like character, a character that does. Not by its name but by its fruit is the value of a tree determined.