Christianity in the West has sold out to secularization. We have divorced ourselves from The Truth who is Jesus Christ, and instead chosen to give ourselves over to an illicit love affair with truth, in a campaign aimed at fighting for the secular priority of the individual’s right for freedom of speech.
.. truth has become words. Ideas divorced from The Truth. Words – which if connected in any way to facts – give the speaker a right to damage, harm or do violence in opposition to The Truth they have rejected.
In the name of “speaking truth”, Christians have emotionally scarred and dehumanized gay and trans people.
We have shammed, demeaned and ostracized mothers who have had abortions.
We have stigmatized, looked down upon and hurt people struggling with addiction and battling mental illness.
In the name of speaking truth we have called victims of suicide murderers.
Gay children “abominations who are condemned to hell”.
And have told struggling single mothers that they are simply “suffering the consequences of their actions.”
If what I have said so far has offended, please understand that this is not my intention. I doubt that many of us intend the damage or harm that we cause.
However, though the damage and harm our words have caused may not be intended, they are no less real.
For those who have borne the brunt of our campaign for “truth”, the consequences are far more severe than mere offense. And at times have resulted in suicide, mental illness, and have further stigmatized and the entrenched attitudes of oppression and dehumanizing narratives which exist within our culture already.
By no means do I wish to make anyone feel condemned. Who am I to condemn? I have fought the same battle in opposition to The Truth before, claiming the same justification for my un-christlike behavior. And there are times where I still fail in this area.
But, I do mean to be clear.
Brothers and Sisters, when we place our campaign to proclaim our truth above The Truth who is Jesus, we do not further the advance of the Kingdom, we oppose it.
We do not stand with Christ, we stand against Him.
Whenever we see Jesus pictured in the gospels he is not standing above the weak reigning condemnation down upon them, he is kneeling in the dirt beside them. He is opening his arms to embrace those who have been rejected, he is taking time to sit and grieve with the broken hearted.
And yes, there are times when he speaks hard truths to people. There are even times where his words could sound harsh. But, in these times you will note that whenever Jesus rebukes someone those comments are directed to the Powerful. It is the religious elite who are warned that their misrepresentation of God is driving people away from The Truth. It is the religious elite who are called “white washed tombs” and a “brood of vipers”.
It is those who are on the INSIDE of the religious system, those who in today’s time might define themselves as Christians, those who believe that because of their “knowledge of the scriptures” and because of their “holy lifestyle”, that they have the right to condemn others, these are the ones who receive the sternest words from Jesus.
We – the church – must understand that when we fight for our right for “freedom of speech” we are fighting – not for a Christian right – but for our right to be recognized as equal participants within the Empire.
Freedom of Speech – when it stands in opposition to the mission of Jesus – is not a Christian concern, but a secular one.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t preach the gospel or represent Jesus publicly?
Not at all.
I am questioning that when we use our position of power and privilege to condemn the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed, whether we are even preaching the Gospel at all?
If we think the Gospel is telling people that they are sinners and are destined for hell, and if we thus – responding out of fear – feel that we must warn them of God’s judgement – and that we are then justified, or even called – to warn people of this coming wrath of God, irregardless of how our words are understood and with no concern for the emotional damage we are doing to people, then we have misunderstood the heart of God and are in danger of misrepresenting and opposing the Kingdom Jesus came to proclaim.
Any declaration of truth that does not take into account the pastoral and human needs of the individual is not Truth.
We cannot speak The Truth without showing Love and concern for the individual we are speaking too. We can speak true things in an unloving way, but at that point it is just dry facts and figures and has no power to redeem, restore or save.
Perhaps you would argue that when we speak hard “truths” regarding hell and sin to sinners that we are doing so out of concern for the sinner’s eternal salvation.
Well, though I do not doubt the sincerity that underpins such a statement, I would argue that if we are continuing to hammer home our agenda, and in doing so are causing real emotional, mental and spiritual trauma to an individual or group of people, then we are not displaying that concern in a Christ like manner.
No, theology devoid of love and without concern for the pastoral needs of the individual is not TRUTH.
Truth, the only truth that matters, is found in Jesus, our incarnate savior.
He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. He is God’s Truth, written into flesh, spoken to the world.
And when The Truth speaks, He does so in a manner which shows concern for the least, the lost and the hurting.
The Truth reveals the Love and compassion of God.
The Truth provides a way for freedom and reconciliation, healing and restoration.
The Truth is NOT simply words on a page to be recited and regurgitated upon any passerby.
It is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword. He cuts through the lies and deceptions of the enemy and reveals God to the broken hearted. A God who would risk it all to save, who would allow Himself to be misunderstood and mocked in order to redeem, a God who would choose to remain silent than cause harm in order to rescue His children from oppression.
The Truth lives.
And when we reduce Truth to simple words and ideas and try to separate it from the reality of the Incarnate and embodied Word of life, then we lose Truth all together.
Now, in case you think that I am advocating a wishy-washy, soft, do whatever we can to be accepted Christianity, let me make myself clear.
I am not saying that we as a community should shy away from wrestling with the realities of sin, or that we should in any way undermine the real consequences and effects sin has had on humanity and the world.
I am saying rather – that without denying these realities – we do need to pay attention to, and have an understanding of, both the cultural context we are living in, and the individuals we are speaking too.
When celebrities such as Israel Folau say publicly “Gays are going to Hell”, and Christians come to his defense proclaiming that he was just speaking truth, and thus was proclaiming the gospel courageously, then it shows how distorted our view of the gospel really is and reveals how twisted our priorities have become.
The Gospel is not a message of condemnation.
The Gospel is the Good news to the poor, it is a proclamation that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free. It is the wondrous mystery of God’s coming Kingdom, breaking into this world, and proclaiming that God has made room at the table for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, age or ethnicity. The walls which separate us have been brought crashing down, the systems of this world that propagate evil and dehumanize and keep humanity captive are experiencing the twilight of their existence. The Truth has been spoken. And the Word is Love, the Word is Freedom, the Word is Jesus.
Our right to freedom of speech, and our desire to proclaim our “truth” is not more important than Christ’s call to love and serve the weak, the marginalized and oppressed.
Next time you feel promoted to comment on a FB thread, Insta, or Tweet in defense of your truth I challenge you to pause and ask yourself. Do my words convey The Truth that is Jesus Christ? Do they bear witness to the glorious revelation of the Love, Mercy and Grace of our God? Or rather, do they harm, and thus stand in opposition to The Truth He has revealed to us, undermining the message of Love and Restoration which represent the coming of God’s Kingdom?