Sometimes God speaks to us through common sense. If we ask God whether or not we should buy a lottery ticket, the answer will always be “No.” Sometimes God speaks to us through the community of saints called his Church. So if we ask our fellow Christians whether we should sell all our earthly possessions and become a hermit to pray in the woods, they might remind us we have school-aged children, elderly parents, and responsibilities to our employees which would make the “selfless” life of a hermit one of the most selfish decisions imaginable.

My best advice is that if everyone who loves you and loves God tells you you’re wrong, stop praying for a different answer. As Tozer said, “Prayer is never an acceptable substitute for obedience.”

I cannot tell you how often I wish people took that advice more seriously, so let me repeat it: if they’re all telling you you’re wrong, you are.

“But what if our friends are wrong? What if our church is misguided or overly judgmental?”

These are valid concerns. However, the time to adjudicate our church is never when our church is challenging our behavior. If you’re concerned about the trustworthiness of your church, make a decision about how to handle those concerns when you’re not under scrutiny. You should never respond to a question concerning your character with an assault upon the character of those who hold you accountable.

Some, of course, may cite Job’s comforters as proof that the community can be wrong. Let me be clear: the community can be wrong. Job’s comforters were wrong. But that’s one story in a Bible that covers roughly 4,000 years. So the odds that the people who are challenging you right now are “just like” Job’s comforters are slim indeed. Furthermore, Job’s comforters were conflating suffering for sin. They concluded that, since Job was suffering, he must have sinned secretly and simply not known about it. That’s a very different issue than someone sinning obviously and refusing to acknowledge it, or someone suffering as a result of blatant sin they refuse to address. Job’s comforters fabricated sin to justify the suffering, whereas most of us are trying to excuse sin in order to blame our suffering on God.

We’re too afraid of repentance, too wary of being challenged, and altogether too defensive about our behavior.

Let us repent more than we request permission.