Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If We Won't Speak God's Truth, the Very Stones Will Cry Out

From Chosen: The Story of God and His People, which we use for Catechism class at Saint Matthew, on why God sent some prophets to ancient Israel with gloomy messages of condemnation if God's people refused to turn from sin and return to faith in Him:
As strange as it may sound, God sent prophets of doom to his people because he loved them. He cares enough to say a harsh word to us because it is for our own good. It is not easy to say hard words to someone you love. Nor is it easy to be critical when you want to say nice things. But it is important to speak the truth. You cannot pretend everything is fine when it isn't. If friends are going to hurt themselves or someone else because of the way they live, then we should speak out. God did this through his prophets.
The apostle Paul spoke about the importance of "speaking the truth in love." Some people erroneously think that pointing out sins that threaten themselves, their relationships with others, or their eternal destinies is the same thing as judging, something Jesus warned us not to do. Not true!

The condemning judgments we express toward others are often done behind the backs of those we condemn. And when we judgeothers, if we do confront them, there is no desire to help them, only to prove them wrong (and by extension, ourselves superior). Love, the desire for what is best for another, even when the other makes us furious or when we find ourselves incapable of being around the other, is absent.

By contrast, when we speak the truth in love, we do so with the other person and with a desire to help them. We do so, Jesus says in His mandate for conflict resolution with fellow believers, even with a willingness to come away from those confrontations proven wrong.

Jesus has entrusted the role of both confronting congregants and the world for sin and for offering the grace of forgiveness and new starts available through Jesus Christ. We must not mince words on either God's Law or God's Good News, the Gospel. Love compels the Church to speak both messages, whether the world likes it or not.

In this era when the denomination of which I am a part speaks with a garbled voice about things like the deity of Jesus, the truth of His virgin birth and resurrection, Christ's claims to be the exclusive means by which humanity enters into a relationship with God, the authority of Scripture over our lives, and the teaching of the Bible that sexual intimacy was created by God as a source of pleasure, bonding, and procreation for a man and a woman in a lifetime marital covenant, we must devote ourselves to speaking the Word of God clearly.

The world may like a garbled message. It enables us to dodge God's truth, to replace our individual desires for God's will. But God refuses to be marginalized. God refuses to allow us to go to hell without a fight.

If we won't speak God's truth in love, God will raise up other messengers who will. The very stones will cry out His truth!

Some may be shy about speaking God's truth, however lovingly, because of an awareness of their own sins. But if you read the testimonies by and about the Old Testament prophets, you discover that they shared this very trait with you.
  • God chastised Elijah for that prophet's self-righteous notion that only he was faithful among God's people. 
  • Jonah hated the foreigners God had called him to preach to and was ultimately forced to fulfill his call after God had him swallowed up by a great fish. 
  • Hosea wasn't keen on marrying a prostitute who he was sure would be unfaithful to him. 
  • The New Testament prophet John the Baptist, the one who whooped in the womb when his mother heard the voice of Jesus' pregnant mother Mary, doubted Jesus as the Messiah when he languished in Herod's prison before he was beheaded.
The everyday prophets Christians are called to be aren't perfect either. They're willing to be proven wrong. But they are unwilling to see their friends, family members, or society turn away from God and the life that only God offers without telling them the truth about God's condemnation of sin and about God's gift of new and everlasting life for all who repudiate their sin and surrender their lives and wills to Jesus Christ.

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