Thursday, June 14, 2007

Narrow ... & Life-Giving

Lot's of things in life are narrow. For example, it doesn't matter how often I tell myself our dryer is shrinking all my pants; the narrow truth of it is that I'm fattening up (rather nicely, I might add). It doesn't matter how much you might believe, you will never fly like superman. It doesn't matter how many movies Keanu Reeves will be in, he'll never act like any character other than, well, Keanu.

Truth is narrow. That's what makes it truth. It may sound absolute and "close-minded" but it is what it is! Think about it ... Humans need oxygen to survive. Smoking is bad for you. George W. Bush is a weinee. All narrow, all true. (Okay, maybe a little subjective on that last one.)

Lot's of folks say Jesus is the only way to life with God... especially in eternity. How narrow of them! Absolutely. But is it true? If it's true than it's okay for it to be narrow, right?

Still others say that there are many roads to God... embracing religious systems that clearly oppose one another. Sure it feels good to no longer be "narrow," but is it true? Can we add Jesus to our utility-belt of spiritual options even though he boldly proclaimed that all other gods are false and that there is no other way to God except through him?

I know that like all religions Christianity can be viewed as an ideological system that we can pick and choose from; but Jesus cannot. Jesus is a real, historical person who made crazy claims! I care very little for abstract spiritual ideologies. I care much more about the people they're based on. We have to decide what to do with those people. People like Jesus.

He said he's one of the three persons in the eternal community of God (citing Father and Holy Spirit as the other two). He said he's eternal, without beginning or end. He said he created the world and loves us even though we abandoned him. He said he's the only way to reconcile with God and enter his "kingdom." He said that people who don't receive him can't enter the "kingdom." He said he must die to complete his payment for human guilt. He said people must be "born again" into that kingdom life. (All real statements Jesus made, recorded multiple times by multiple authors in the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John - unheard of historical literary credibility.)

What do we do with all that? With such outrageous claims, our options are limited. As one author put it, it only makes sense to call him liar, lunatic, or Lord. We can't call him a good person or a good teacher anymore than we could call Joseph Smith or Charles Manson a good person or teacher. Their claims were simply too extreme!

I know, I know, "You shouldn't label people." But when it comes to issues of life and death and eternity, we must. And Jesus challenged us to do just that. Label him. Judge him. Decide what to do with him. He even asked people point-blank, "Who do you say that I am?"

A lot of postmoderns in the West are comfortable with picking and choosing ideas from famous religious leaders without ever calling the person into question. The result is self-made religion... and they become the people upon whom their personal system is founded. They become the real flesh and blood people who are called into question.

My reason for ranting on about this is that there are growing numbers of postmodern "missional" Christians who have decided that being soft on truth is the loving thing to do. But as Psalm 85:10 says, in God, "lovingkindness and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Truth without love isn't really truth. Love without truth isn't really love. They are interdependent, inseparable realities. It's impossible to skip one without destorying both.

I love people. Sincerely. My heart breaks for family members, friends, and neighbors who are suffering under the soul-crushing weight of abuse, guilt, despair, self-condemnation, and shame. And on top of that, they continue pursuing sinful, self-destructive paths of self-medication that only mess them up even worse. My love mandates that I bring truth into the equation at timely, sensitive, opportune moments. After all, truth is the stuff of real hope; and our world is desperate for hope!

I earnestly pray that Christians would wake up from their apathetic, judgmental, false-truth-speaking slumber and begin loving the world with real love and real truth. Likewise, I also pray that those caught in the tide of our culture's confused pluralism would discover the nature of Jesus' love-filled, life-giving truth. It's narrow. It's absolute. And that's what makes it real and dependable as the seedbed of hope and transformation.


Revolutionary said...

John, I hear where you are coming from and there is a real danger of missing out on communicating truth. But whose interpretation of the truth? I've realised as time has gone by that many things I thought were right I didn't fully understand. Jesus spoke against sin, but showed incredible love to the people. Maybe it's not the case that we must show truth and love, but we can only speak truth IF we are also loving them. Just speaking truth to someone and then moving on would leave me questioning if we love them. We speak truth because we love them right?

And as for the pomo missional types, it's not just them that abandon truth! The whole bible is true right? Is anyone speaking truth completely, and not just with words?

I hear where you are coming from, but lets be careful about how we talk to others too.

Good post, thanks.

Duncan McFadzean said...

John, sorry you may not have known who the above poster was, it's me, I logged in with my wrong ID. I need to tell you the truth!

John Lynch said...

Hey Duncan! Thanks for the comment brother. I always appreciate and am always encouraged by your words.

I totally agree with you that "we can only speak truth IF we are also loving them." That's the essence of my statement that, "They are interdependent, inseparable realities. It's impossible to skip one without destorying both."

I also agree that issues of interpretation cloud the truth issue when tackling things from a systematic approach. That's why I tried to emphasize the centrality of the person those systems are based on. That our judgment is less on the impersonal ideas (a post-Enlightenment notion) and more on the person from whom those ideas came (a more Hebraic approach).

There is less room to disagree interpretively when we simply look at the person of Jesus and His interpretation of ... whatever. The personal, skin-on-skin, relational observation cuts through many of the interpretive quandries and takes us deeper into the heart of our personal God and His personal kingdom.

That's how I challenge us to talk to others. With both Truth and Love, and with a focused emphasis on the personal Jesus and what His example and teaching means for us personally. Do you think that's a careful enough approach?

Thanks again, dude! Peace in Christ.

Duncan McFadzean said...

Thanks John, I'm actually thinking through the truth element at the moment as we're looking at starting up a cafe for our community (NOT for our church) but I wonder what it means to communicate truth. I'd choose the low key option every time (I'm an introvert) but someone once told me you can be too neutral. I'll take your comments on board in this! Thanks.

John Lynch said...

I love Frost Hirsch's suggestions on communicating truth in their book, "The Shaping of Things to Come" as well as Shane Claiborne's words in "Irresistible Revolution." They talk a lot about asking questions and telling stories. Those two approaches, in particular, ssem to me the very light and clothing of what is otherwise naked truth unsought.

Duncan McFadzean said...

I loved Claiborne's book, not yet read Hirsch's but am very much wanting to. Will have to add it to the pile of as yet unread books........