In The Midst of Problems,Are You Hearing God Speak?

I read a book years ago called “Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia” by Dennis Covington. It’s a true story about snake handling Christians in the Sand Mountain area of Alabama, near where Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee share a border.

The story begins with a pastor who gets drunk and deliberately tries to kill his wife by placing her hand into a crate full of rattle snakes. Though bitten several times, she lives, and he goes to prison.

The Sand Mountain believers live out a rigid devotion to the law as they find it in Scripture. For these believers, the Bible is literally understood. Everything you could want to know about how to live, what to eat, how to dress, how to cut your hair (or not cut it if you’re a woman), they say, can be found in the Bible.

Their faith centers on Mark 16:16-18: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name, they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

For the Sand Mountain folk, there’s no question, no alternative. You do what the Bible tells you, and they believe the Bible tells the saved to handle snakes and drink strychnine. They refuse medical treatment and heal snake bites by prayer and laying on of hands. This is what is called the “Galatian error,” which St. Paul addresses in his epistle to that church: “Stand firm and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom …” (Gal 5:1)

As individuals and as a Christian community, we are called to freedom, which is to live being guided by the Spirit of God. This is risky, however, because it means letting go of all the safety and certainty the law and the world seem to provide and steadfastly refusing to be divided again by gender, race, class, sexual orientation or any other worldly and “lawful” distinction.

Living a life of faith means trusting that Almighty God, who is always faithful, can and will act to redeem and restore “shalom,” the way things ought to be. It means working to learn how to hear God who is still speaking to us, not only in our hearts, minds and bodies, but also in and through our varied and diverse communities.

Living in the freedom of our faith requires that we remember how we all came to have salvation. We are saved because God acted to save us, and God acted to save us because God loves us. Our salvation is a gift freely given by our loving Lord, Jesus Christ. The only thing we can actually do is respond to that gift in faith and humble gratitude, living the life of freedom we were given and opening the way for all people to do the same.

While it can be tempting to spend our lives chasing after spiritual “lawbreakers,” that isn’t our purpose. We aren’t called to judge. We’re called to manifest the love of God in the world. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.”

Radiate some love. It’s transforming.
Shared with you by Rev. Valori M. Sherer