...so that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine...
- Ephesians 4.14
Therefore we must pray God continually that He would bestow the light of true discretion to illumine this way, surrounded on every side by the world’s thick darkness, so that His true worshippers may be able to cross this darkness without error to Himself. So discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete.
- Columbanus, Monks’ Rule, Irish, 7th century
Paul’s reference to our being “no longer children” surely points to the exercise of discernment in matters of truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil.
They who are growing in the Lord Jesus and the knowledge of His way will find that they are not vulnerable to being “blown off course” by whatever new doctrine or practice happens to well up from within the Church or waft in from the surrounding culture. The practice of discernment is a daily duty and requires a firm foundation of Truth if we are to succeed.
“True discretion” must be based in Truth from God, derived from the study of His Word and deep, consistent fellowship with Him.
Today the buzz-word in many churches is not discernment, but tolerance. We are called to be open to and tolerant of people, not to judge them, lest they feel uncomfortable in our midst. By being tolerant rather than discerning we can travel our journey of faith together in love.
But if people insist on dragging the baggage of error, deceit, and lies with them into the Church, we are remiss if we fail to confront and correct them. It’s a lot easier, I’ll grant you, just to allow everyone to believe whatever he or she wants, or to practice the faith of Christ in whatever way suits them.
It’s easier, but Jesus never promised us an easy road.
The darkness of sin encroaches on the way of light at all times, inviting travelers to detour from Truth into half-truths, “good ideas,” and interesting but devastating side paths. The exercise of discernment can keep us from these traps.
Seek the Lord in prayer and in His Word, so that His discernment might be with you, and help you to stay on the path of light.
Otherwise, how will you stand against the changeable winds of doctrine?
Psalm 25.4, 5, 10 (Festal Song: “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”)
Make me to know Your ways, teach me Your paths, O Lord!
My Savior, all day long I wait and seek You in Your Word.
The paths of God are all of love and faithfulness;
All they who keep His covenant the Lord will surely bless.
Give me grace, O Lord, to cherish Your Word and carry out Your will in all my ways today. Adapted from Comghall, Rule