Things have changed in America. Christianity and the teachings of Jesus aren’t as openly accepted any more. Have you ever felt like you didn’t know what to say or how to act around someone whose beliefs and life were very different than ours? It’s not just you! This is tough! We see Christians compromising on God’s truth for the sake of “love.” We see other Christians vehemently standing for God’s truth in anger and hatred for those who disagree. Each road seems to have one foot on the narrow way behind Jesus and one foot off. Jesus never compromised on the truth, nor did he ever do less than completely love others, even his enemies. In Ephesians 4, Paul describes it this way, “speaking the truth in love.” God calls us to remain aligned 100% with the truth and 100% loving of all people involved.
What is truth? We live in an age where boundaries and standards that have existed for millennia have been broken down. It’s like children who were kept fenced in for their own good, but feverishly wanted to explore. After pushing against the fence for some time, the children found a way out. At first they stepped slowly, then more confidently, until finally the children ran wildly into the very danger the fence was built to protect them from. As Christians, we are the ones who need to stay in the fence of God’s truth and not be lured by the shouts of glee beyond the gate. We need to be the ones who love the fence and the beautiful life of truth and purity found within that yard. We need to be the ones who are self-disciplined enough to remain in the yard even after the fence seems to be completely torn down and trampled upon by those who do not respect it.
How do we feel about the children who have left the yard? How do we address them? It seems obvious to us that they are wrong and that we are right. But they won’t listen to us. Our gentle urging seems to do no good. Perhaps we should raise our voices over the mangled fence. Perhaps if we scream in righteous outrage, then they will listen. Perhaps we should wage a war for the sake of the fence, a holy war for truth and purity. Us versus them. Good versus evil. This is not the way of Jesus. When Jesus looked over the fence, this is what he saw:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (ESV)
Jesus had compassion on those who were misguided. In fact, he loved them so much he would willingly sacrifice his life for their sake. He would allow these misguided people to kill him so that they would have forgiveness and new life. As disciples of Jesus we should follow his example. It starts with our own repentance and receiving from Jesus our own forgiveness and the practice of disciplined living. Then we look over the fence with compassion, recognizing the confusion and disorder in the relentless search for pleasure and fulfillment. Then we give of ourselves for their sake, even though we disagree. It means we love them despite their unfortunate choices while never leaving the truth. It means living and loving the truth while truly loving those who don’t.
This is the way of Jesus.
Through the fall, Bethel is going to explore what it means to speak the truth in love. We’ll look at all sorts of issues in our culture and in our relationships where truth and love must be totally present.
Join us for this life-changing journey together!