04 October 2011
speaking the love in truth
One of the challenges of living in a postmodern - and increasingly pluralistic - society is holding firm to the truth claims of the Christian faith. There are a good number of churchgoing, self-affirming Christians who simply do not live out a visible acceptance of one standard of truth. This, of course, is a major contributor to the church's ineffectiveness disarray.
Douglas Groothuis once wrote, "The truth itself does not decay" (Truth Decay, IVP, 2000). And I have learned in recent years the modern day axiom, "The truth does not need a majority to prevail." (I withhold the reference for the time being, because it will cause a major distraction to my main point.)
If the church's primary problem is a lack of regard for truth, then it will certainly affect numerous areas of church life and witness. One such area that ought to be recovered is that of reconciliation. First, it should be noted that the biblical view of reconciliation is twofold: first to God, then toward each other (2 Corinthians 5). Also, this passage shows us that Paul believed his ministry was one of reconciliation, and that the truth of the gospel through Jesus the Messiah was working toward this end. So our understanding of reconciliation must be placed in the larger context of God's kingdom, and the Messianic enthronement of Jesus.
Once the church returns to the context of the cosmic restoration of the kingdom of God, then truth will not be allowed to suffer compromise. Instead, there are far too many voices in the body of believers who are placing individual feeling and corporate sentimentality above the standard of truth. This is played out in kowtowing and appeasement in our congregations, rather than accepting the premise of a messianic family who are summoned to work together and accept one another in the name of (true, biblical) reconciliation.
When feelings are placed above truth, the effectiveness of the gospel - even gospel reconciliation - is hindered. Although I might be able to understand what is trying to be said, in the context of gospel and truth I disagree with the notion that "perception is reality." For, among many, I have been handed the short end of the stick with this line. Not to address a particular message being conveyed through my image or leadership, but as a means to accept what people have said about me regardless of any damage to the truth and concede without question. Yes, there are certainly times when the letting go of minor offenses is good and worthwhile. But this should not happen at the expense of the truth when the church will be required to pay the bill.
We are often reminded that it is the responsibility of all believers to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), and this should always be the tone of a Christ-follower. But we must also remember that disciples of Jesus will follow him in speaking the love of God in words of truth that will not compromise, despite the fact that some will not want to hear, some will walk away, and some will crucify us. Nevertheless, it is the truth of God's love and the truth of gospel, without which genuine reconciliation is impossible. Despite the opinion polls, popularity contests, or the fear of dissatisfied consumers, the church must stand on truth. Our culture is more than wrong, it is somewhere between ignorance and ambivalence; it is a greater need than before to proclaim God's truth.