Image Credit: Patheos.com
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” Timothy Keller
Accepting that ‘radical truthfulness’ about who we are can be brutal. We have a difficult enough time being honest with ourselves regarding our hopeless state, and hearing it from an outside place like church can be downright intolerable for some. Our culture (and parts of mainstream Christianity) have run full speed ahead with the notion that we all relatively fine. Our sin-nature has been whitewashed and watered-down to include nothing more than little faults we can fix ourselves with a good self-help book. Lowest common denominator kind of preaching my get people saved, but where is the righteousness, peace or joy we as believers are supposed to have? (Romans 14:17) We are a people “ever learning, but never able to come to any knowledge of the (real) truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Once we leave the safety of the revealed truth provided for us by God in His Word, every step we take becomes shakier and more unbalanced.
Truth is hard. It makes us uncomfortable and exposed. It requires something of us. A few weeks ago while browsing my local Christian bookstore I noticed a new section, an entire wall really, that was dedicated to just one type of book: the adult coloring book. Dozens of them. Markers and paints sold separately, of course. You can while away the hours coloring intricate Biblical scenes, verses, mostly just designs with a verse printed on the sheet. Part of me gets it, I really do, it’s a craft and people need to put down the iPhones and check out once in awhile. If coloring does it for you, fantastic. I cringed though, at the scope of this whole thing – so much so that I snapped a picture and texed it to a friend with the caption “does this seem weird to you?!” with a laughing emoji.
So again, I’m not making fun of it, I’m just feeling like there are some red flags going up in how we are becoming less and less interested in God’s word, which leads to a really anemic kind of faith and a lukewarm, indifferent attitude towards the truth. Unbelievably, this new section is where the ‘classics’ used to be shelved… the irony isn’ lost on me. They’ve been moved to the back of the store now, I weep a little inside thinking about it.
So we have a ton of “love” (or feel good stuff) with about an ounce of God’s truth. This is why we have Christian (I use this term loosely) writers endorsing gay marriage, coming out themselves as gay, mixing the Bible with the teachings of Buddha, and on and on. It’s a self-serving age and a self-serving spirituality.
For those of us still holding on to our actual Bibles, this presents a problem. The vast majority of us I would assume, don’t hate people just because they struggle or have wandered, quite the contrary. Our hearts as true disciples of Jesus should be 100% FOR people. We have sadly become really comfortable with being comfortable. We snack on sugar all day when we need to be eating our vegetables. We try and fuel ourselves on pretty, filtered Instagram memes when we need the Jesus of the Bible.
David and Jason Benham have written a fantastic article entitled “Understanding the Balance of Truth and Mercy” and have a great analogy on the love/truth conundrum:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “It’s not enough to help hurting people; you must also stop the things that hurt them.” In the Bible, we call this the balance of truth and mercy. God commands that His followers show mercy by helping hurting people, yet He also requires they expose the things that hurt them so they can be led to the truth.
This requires supernatural balance, because there are ditches on both sides of the road if you err to the extreme of either side.
To be all merciful and yet refuse to speak the truth is like building a hospital at the bottom of a cliff without also installing a guardrail at the top. Sure, you’d help plenty of hurting people, but you would stop no one from falling off.
To be all truthful and yet lack mercy would be like installing a guardrail without also building the hospital. You would definitely prevent a lot people from hurting themselves, but you’d have no way to help those who fall.”
I simply love this picture they paint. We need both guardrail and hospital. Help those who have fallen, be ready in season and out to speak God’s healing truth (2 Timothy 4:2), but also have some safety measures in place that keep them from going over the cliff in the first place.
They are correct in saying the balance is supernatural – avoid the ditches by experiencing God’s amazing grace and uncompromising truth for yourself… they go beautifully together and were never meant to work alone.
So take time to color, have some candy now and then, it’s ok. Take even more time to know and speak the Word, it’s the only way we are able discern that candy from poison.