We must be careful of who we choose to follow:
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent. -Romans 16:17-18, NAB
NOTICE: We skipped past the last portions of Romans 15 and the first part of Romans 16. There were not many lessons to “teach” from these verses, so I moved ahead. To read the rest of those verses, follow this link: Romans 15-16.
In today’s verse, St. Paul warns us about false teachers – specifically those who teach for the sake of hearing their own voice. Unfortunately, this is still common today, and we must be careful to watch out for this.
For the most part, I would assume that most of the writers, speakers, and teachers of the faith go into ministry for the right reasons. Their goal, in the beginning anyway, is to share the Word of God with those who will listen, but, as their notoreity increases, their ego may get in the way.
Fame and notoriety can take the most humble of teachers and turn their world upside down. Soon, they begin teaching their own message, instead of God’s, and they begin to lead people astray. This is not only dangerous for the teacher, but the followers as well.
What’s the solution? When we see a teacher go astray, we must correct him or her. We may not make a difference as an individual, but as a Church we can. If the teacher refuses to change their ways, then we must no longer follow them. It’s as simple as that.
In recent years, there have been real examples of this that have grabbed Catholic headlines, and it was great to see so many take a stand. For those once great teachers that have strayed, all we can do is pray for them to return from the error of their ways. When they do, we can welcome them home like the prodigal son.
As students and followers, may we always beware of false teachers. As teachers, writers, and speakers, may we always remain true to God, in both word and deed, but if we stray, may our brothers and sisters in Christ help us to find our way back home again.