A zoo in Cairo has been accused of trying to pass off a donkey as a zebra. To many observers, it appears that the donkey was painted with stripes to make it look like a zebra. The zoo, however, insists that it is a real zebra, although not your standard variety. Officials haven’t yet provided any proof that it is a real zebra. The public meanwhile is skeptical about the animal’s authenticity.
If the zoo is trying to pass off a fake zebra, it wouldn’t be the first time that people have attempted to fool the public. In fact, spotting the real from the fake can be full-time work in our day and age. There are knock-off designer clothes, false gems, counterfeit sports memorabilia, artificial food flavors…and the list goes on.
In the city of Corinth, the problem was false apostles: “These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)
The problem is that the counterfeit devalues the worth of the real. Christians are called to be discerning and to not be gullible. We are to search the scriptures, test the spirits, and know the true from the false. That takes some work and effort on our part, but it is important because allowing false and harmful doctrine can be damaging.
Not every teacher or preacher is worthy of a platform. We don’t need to become cynical of all ministries, but we do need to ensure that we aren’t being deceived. The church’s testimony to God’s faithful presence in the world depends on us knowing the difference between the real thing and the genuine fake.