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“I need you to give biblical references.”

“For what?”

“For all of it, everything you present as fact.”

I swallowed hard. Surely he didn’t expect me to comb through every single sentence and spend hours in my Bible just to prove what most Christians generally agreed upon and accepted as truth!

But he did.

I had just turned in my first Christian curriculum assignment as a freelance writer. A client had asked me to provide morning quiet time material for students to use while at camp. I wasn’t annoyed by his request for references, exactly, just pressed for time with little ones at home.

“Sure. I can do that.”

But a not-so-funny thing happened. Although I was able to find most of the references I needed quickly and easily, some just refused to be found. A few hours later, prickly heat creeping up my neck, I realized that some of what I’d written wasn’t biblical at all—encouraging, maybe, motivational, maybe, but not biblical—and I was glad in ways I couldn’t express that I’d been asked to check my facts.

It’s something I’ve done without fail ever since. Before I turn in any assignment, post any blog, or deliver any message, I always make sure that what I’m presenting lines up with Scripture not only in word, but also in meaning, purpose, and context. When I offer personal opinion, I make sure that people know it.

Many years later, I turned in another assignment to the same client, curriculum for large group use. I felt good about it, confident, eager even, for the words I’d written to fall on wayward ears and bring about change in rebellious hearts.

The phone rang, and I smiled, anticipating positive feedback.

“Angela, I’m going to need a rewrite on this.”

My cheeks flushed hot. Never once had I been asked to do a rewrite in the 10 or more years I’d been freelancing at that point.

“Why?” I managed, hoping the pounding of my pulse couldn’t be heard through the phone.

“I’m not sure what’s going on in your life right now or who you’re upset with,” my client began in kind, diplomatic tones, “but these students are not your enemy. Don’t assume things about people that you’ve never met. Just write the truth and let the Holy Spirit do His job. Don’t try to make things happen.”

So that’s what I did, what I’ve done ever since.

As painful as these two experiences were, they taught me the importance of 1) handling the word of truth correctly so that I can stand before God unashamed (2 Tim. 2:15), 2) letting the Bible speak for itself (Heb. 4:12), and 3) giving the Holy Spirit room to do what He alone can do (John 6:44-45).

Furthermore, my client’s actions impressed upon me the weight of responsibility that those of us who hold positions of spiritual influence or claim spiritual knowledge on any level bear for the spiritual health and well-being of those who look to us for guidance and direction, even in passing.

In a sense, to recommend, promote, or hold an individual up as someone others should listen to, learn from, or be encouraged by on a spiritual level is to hook those who trust us up to an IV and say, “Here. This is good. Take this in,” a dangerous thing indeed in this age of Christian celebrity, feel-good philosophy, and doctrinal ambiguity.

We know that God doesn’t take kindly to those who cause His little ones to stumble (Matt. 18:6), so before you post a link, retweet a tweet, or simply throw out an “I love him/her,” make sure the person you are introducing to your audience

  • Is a born-again Christian.
  • Seeks God’s glory over his/her own.
  • Preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ plus nothing unto salvation.
  • Rightly divides the word of truth, preaching Scripture in context, not maiming, mangling, or manipulating It or putting words in God’s mouth.
  • Is a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ, representing Him well in word, deed, and attitude.
  • Displays a love for others that overrides his/her need to preserve self or push their own agenda.

Now, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, but that’s exactly why it’s so important that we stop and think before connecting folks to other folks.

One little shout-out and your people could become theirs forever. Of course, the only way to be sure that you never steer anyone wrong is to point them always and without exception to the Bible so they can chew and swallow the bread of life for themselves, but if you feel you simply must use an IV, make sure you know what’s in the bag!