So I just finished a weekly ritual of reading some interesting blogs. I don’t read many. But I do find a few of interest.
One blog was talking about abortions in countries outside the US. It seems as though many countries have far more restrictive laws than the US. Interesting.
Another blog, which was very well written, was discussing the need for the Church to be a source of truth and love. The author noted that when we do one without the other it does more harm than good.
Unfortunately, the Church has not done this very well. As a result many are abandoning the Church.
You should know by now if you have read any of my writings that I am deeply committed to the Church. I have been thinking about the Church for some time. How can we save it? For many the church is beyond saving. There is, in fact, a significant movement among younger Christians to love Jesus, but to abandon the Church.
I can hear Jesus screaming: YOU CANT DO THAT!
The Church is the body of Christ on the earth (something we will see clearly in our study of 1st Corinthians this Fall). As Christians, we are privileged to know the Truth (capital “T” because it is both a noun that refers to something that corresponds to reality—i.e., it is ‘true’—and it is a Person: Christ!).
But beyond just knowing the Truth, we have been commanded to make the Truth known! And we are to do so by manifesting love to one another and to the world.
This is where the difficulty arises. This delicate balance of truth and love is hard to maintain. How do we speak truth and, yet, do so in love? Let me suggest a couple of thoughts:
Love comes before Truth
First, Love is relational. The biblical story tells us that we were created to be in community: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Relationships are such that the deeper they are the more transparent they become. A stranger probably won’t tell us we have a coffee stain on our shirt. But someone close to you might point it out to help cover the embarrassment (kind of like how everyone says, “great message pastor” after the service; but later those close to you tell you the truth! This, of course, never happens to me; but I have heard from other preachers that it happens to them!). The fact is we don’t usually take advice on how to live from strangers.
The Church can learn from this. We must learn to establish relationships with people first. As we develop those relationships with people we earn the right to speak into their lives. Then, since we have a relationship with them, we will be more likely to speak into their lives out of love.
After all, Love comes before truth.
We will never be perfect at it!
Second, we must also understand the fact that we will never be perfect at balancing love and truth. It is important, then, that when we fail, we own it. Admit our failures. Apologize. Seek forgiveness. It is here that we need each other to come alongside us and pick us up: to help us see the error for what it is.
I think people will respect this. They will be drawn to the truth when we lovingly live it out in our lives with humility.
Allow others to be people too
Third, if we aren’t perfect then why should we demand that others must be? Sometimes the Church has been the place where everyone who enters is judged. Do they have the right clothes on? Do they look respectable? Do they believe the right things?
But what if the church became a place where people who are hurting can find refuge? Where they can come and be loved? Where they can learn to love Jesus over time? As one scholar put it, “Is the Church a museum for saints or a school for sinners?”
You see, people know they are not perfect. And if they think they need to be perfect to be a part of the Church they will flee. But, when they see that we are all broken people who have been rescued by the Savior, they may run to Him with us.
Now I am not in the least suggesting that we suspend truth. No, they need the truth also. But sometimes they just need a hug, or a warm meal, or a place of refuge. We will give them the truth too. But maybe the best truth we can give them is to show them the love that Jesus showed us. Cause as far as I understand, Rom 5:8 is true for every one of us: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”