Speaking Truth While Teaching the Truth

Speaking Truth While Teaching the Truth

I recently linked to an article from Sojourners regarding the recent political climate having an adverse affect on honesty in Christian conversation. The truth is, however, that this is not a new problem. Recent events have perhaps exacerbated the problem, but we’ve historically demonstrated a rather tenuous relationship with the truth when it comes to making sure things fit our personal narratives of how we perceive the world.

Getting Things Right

One example comes from a congregation we were recently visiting. The preacher was leading a series about other Christian faiths, and that day’s lesson was on Catholicism. At one point in the lesson, he said something to the effect that the Catholic Church sells indulgences so that people can buy their way out of Hell or make early payment for future sins. Both of these are flatly untrue. I can’t say I fully understand every detail of the Catholic doctrine of indulgences, but I do know these are myths.

Anecdotes, misconceptions, urban legends, and myths — when preached or taught as truth, these undermine the greater truth we are trying to spread. They become obstacles to others coming to the truth of God’s word. This is one of the reasons James writes, in the beginning of James 3:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Sweating the Details

If someone listening to my preaching can’t trust me to rightfully discern between factual and fictional information, how can they trust me with the bigger truths of God’s word? If someone hears me misrepresenting what they believe, how can they trust me to rightly explain what I believe? If I can’t be trusted to do my homework on secular illustrations or doctrinal explanations, how can I be trusted to study and rightly divide scripture?

II Corinthians 8:21 mentions that we aim to be seen honorably both to God and to our fellow humans. This means we should get things right, even if they aren’t part of scripture. We need to check to see if our lessons that touch on science are relying on outdated or debunked information. We need to make sure that the stories we share as true actually are true. While we defend our own doctrines, we have to get the doctrines we attribute to others right. That’s being truthful in all things.

Practical Application

I have to apply this to myself as well. I’ve occasionally shared a story about African missionaries and neckties that I think is true — but now I’m not so sure. I tried to track it down to the source I thought it came from but have been unsuccessful. It’s a humorous anecdote that I think well illustrates the challenge of unintentionally teaching culture-specific values alongside the gospel. But I have to stop using it as I don’t know if the story is true, and the illustration loses all power if it’s not.

Do all illustrations have to be true stories? Jesus certainly allowed himself to use fictional illustrations in his use of parables, so no, I don’t think every anecdote and illustration has to be true. Fiction is fine as long as our audiences know we are speaking in fiction. If we are presenting something as real, as truth, we need to be sure it is. We always have to make sure that we are telling the truth while we are speaking truth.

Trying to Make Hate Look Pretty

Trying to Make Hate Look Pretty

Love and hate aren’t about emotions. They’re about our attitudes and our actions. Love and hate aren’t about how we feel toward someone, but about how we treat them – what we do or don’t do to them.

To love someone means to treat them as we would want to be treated, regardless of how we feel. When we’re told to love our enemies, it doesn’t mean we feel warm-and-fuzzy about them; it means we respect their inherent human dignity.

Love recognizes that everyone is an equally beloved child of God and must be treated as such by our words and actions. Love values everyone’s dignity and worth as equal to my own.

By contrast, hate rejects another person’s equal value and worth. It sees those who are different from me as less than me in some ways. It creates the conditions for people to be abused and mistreated.

I’ve understood this on a fundamental level, but I’ve never been able to put it so clearly into words.

When Did Christians Become Comfortable with the Loss of Truth?

When Did Christians Become Comfortable with the Loss of Truth?

A deference for human leadership has gotten in the way of the Christian commitment to God. Perhaps this is done unwittingly; modern American Christian tradition has perpetuated a particular set of stances as the crux of its ethic: abortion and LGBTQ equality. Some Christians use these issues as a test for faithfulness to the God of Scripture. I speculate that many of Trump’s Christian voters hold that their commitment to an anti-abortion stance is their biggest political motivator — and Trump promised to nominate a potential Supreme Court justice who would diminish the power of Roe v. Wade.

By putting certain socio-political ethics first, many Christians sacrifice the importance of truth as a foundation of our faith and morality. The Scriptures gives us many examples of ways we should be wary of those who deceive. The apostle Paul, as well as Jesus himself, say to watch out for false teachers and people who mean us harm. In Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to beware anyone seeking to lead them astray: “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.”

One of the biggest dangers I’ve seen to churches in recent years is the fact that we will (rightly) go to great lengths to rightly divide God’s truth, but we will take a far more casual, even reactionary, approach to secular truth. We have narrowed our view of what a Christian leader is down to a couple of high-profile issues. In doing so, we have completely laid aside the pattern of Christ-like living laid out by Jesus and His apostles.

When we come to accept such superficial Christianity from those we admire and follow, it starts to rub off at us. As Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” And in the context of that passage, Paul isn’t writing about “bad company” that drinks too much, passes around drugs, or uses bad language. No, Paul is writing about us keeping fellowship with those who disregard the truth of God’s word. It’s about lying.

President Trump is not a Christian leader if he and his representatives continue to spread such blatant and thoughtless lies. We are as guilty of sin when we then defend or spread lies just because they fit our social narrative or our political preconceptions. This is not a zero sum game; rejecting the ungodly principles of one partisan group does not require we accepts and embrace the ungodliness of another. Ours is to keep ourselves pure from the sin of world, and that includes sin from the White House.

I John 2:4 – 6:

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

How the Church is Failing Its Single Members

How the Church is Failing Its Single Members

Celibacy is a beautiful vow, and the Church almost never talks about it. Why wouldn’t we praise someone for literally devoting themselves to God, both in this life and the next? Remember that Jesus calls us to leave behind our nets in favor of a life following Him (Matthew 4:20). Sometimes, relationships can hold believers back from a full life with Christ – meaning a relationship can be a “net” that we must cast aside.

When you are single, your time is His, and you are more able to fully devote yourself to Jesus.

This is such a necessary post. I specifically remember a young woman in one of my study groups almost panicking at one point that her single status somehow meant she was spiritually incomplete. Being single is a choice, not a season of life. We have no problem with the fact that the apostle Paul was single, so we should also have no problem with single women in the Lord either.

Dear White Evangelicals

Dear White Evangelicals – I Need You To Do Better | Maurice Broaddus

Before you get lost in reflex-like “terrorist organization” rhetoric, to say “Black Lives Matter” is a reminder. There is an unspoken “too” (as in “Black lives matter, too”) because it’s obvious that to many people they don’t. Black Lives Matter is not a difficult concept to grasp unless a person willfully doesn’t want to. Hiding behind #alllivesmatter is a distraction, an act of erasure, where people retreat to in order to cover their indifference with platitudes.

The simple fact is that Jesus often emphasized specific groups of people. The poor. Those whom others—the majority, the system—would tend to discount or condemn. The marginalized. Those denied a voice. The persecuted. His was a ministry of empathizing with ‘the other.’ He stood in opposition to oppression and systematic racism.

I personally found parts of this article very challenging, and I invite you to let it challenge you too. Yes, there is a definite “us and them” vibe to the writing, but that’s because we have let a “us and them” culture sneak into the church. If you, like I did, find yourself resisting or growing upset with parts of the post, take a second to ask, “Am I upset because the author is saying something contrary to scripture, or am I upset because he’s challenging my assumptions and cultural bubble?”