Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Truth Tantrums?

Anyone who is around me very long will hear me say, regularly, "According to Jesus, the quality that clearly identifies us as His disciples is love." That's the TRUTH - just in case you were about to scream, "But what about the truth?" We come from a heritage that exalts knowledge and defines faithfulness by study time. Have you ever heard of someone being appointed elder who didn't come to the Sunday and Wednesday Bible Class? Of course not - even if they were ministering to those beaten and left by the roadside - it's about education, study, and discerning the truth. After all, the truth sets you free, it sanctifies, and it's one of the qualities Paul challenged us to "think on these things." I'll let you provide the scripture references.
We often forget the most important #1 definition of truth in God's dictionary. Jesus is the truth. But Jesus is also love. To know Jesus means that He defines truth and love. From a spiritual perspective, truth is not just knowledge and education, it's understanding and embodying the character of Jesus, and He, like Our Father, is love.
Many of us don't get it! We study the Bible, go to Bible classes, and listen to Bible sermons, and we think the goal is gaining knowledge about what is the correct way to worship, the right way to obey, and the true way to interpret scripture. Once the formulas have been figured out and doctrines securely concluded, we feel comfortable and secure in the knowledge that everyone else in the religious world is in error and would be so much happier, not to mention saved, if they could only "figure it all out like we have."
Smugness, arrogance, exclusiveness, judging, and gracelessness become okay, and our inconsistencies are ignored. We can assemble together, sing about love, hear about Jesus, study about grace, and then shake our fist at someone who pulls out in front of us as we rush to lunch. We know our Bible, but think nothing about being rude, demanding, and stingy to the stressed out waitress who serves us - right after hearing a powerful sermon on being servants. And if someone dares to disagree or change something in the assembly that we've always done, it's okay to be angry, unkind, mean, gossipy, and divisive. Many don't see the irony of being un-Christ-like about Christ centered things we do together.
We need to remember Paul's warning to the Corinthians, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God."
If what we learn about Jesus and God is not making us more loving, we are learning for the wrong reasons. If our study and church attendance is not helping us become more like Jesus, we're doing the wrong stuff at church. If thinking that reaching all the correct conclusions about Biblical doctrines is more important than treating others in a Christ-like manner, we are wrong, in error, and doctrinally in diapers. Remember what becomes absolutely NOTHING without love in the great love chapter? Spiritual gifts, knowledge, faith, giving, and the ultimate sacrifice, are all worthless without love.
So, when is it okay to be un-Christ-like? That truly is a rhetorical question, but let me share this final thought. It's okay to be un-Christ-like when you have to endure something worse than what He endured for you.


Anonymous said...

Sore toes again. THanks.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Thank you brother. You have struck at the heart and core of much of our c.o.c. heritage. [I know all are not like this] Thankfully - many who were or are - are coming out of this mindset into more 'Christlikeness.' Please, keep it coming... our fellowship needs more loving, plain talk like this!
(a regular reader in the midwest)

Deborah said...

Shoulda saved that one for another book.

Thank you for saying plainly and lovingly what so many need to hear.

I'm gonna have to share this one with my other favorite preacher!


Editor said...

I'm glad you left me an out with the last sentence. I was beginning to think it was never appropriate to be "un-Christ-like".

Thank you for pointing out the painfully obvious that we can be right and still be wrong. I know this is a message that I need to continually remind myself.

Love conquers all things. Or better yet His love conquers all things.

Scott and Ashley said...

Awesome! My first thought when I read this was, "Amen!" My second thought was, "Hmmm, Mike must have had a run in with some 'ultra constiveative traditionalist.'" Either way, God bless you for it.