“Men occasionally stumble on the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” – Winston Churchill
You can’t handle the truth! – Jack Nicholson
All character flaws involve self-deception. What’s sobering about this is self-deception is that it is going on inside you and me not just daily but virtually incessantly. Of course, we don’t even notice it. This is a big part of the dynamic of sin. We selectively forget about a vow, or value, or an ethic. We all have this part of our character we euphemistically call a blind spot. By definition we are each completely unaware of that area of our lives.
In order for those of us who are followers of Jesus to engage in sinful behavior we have to set aside conscious thoughts about God. We can’t adore Jesus and participate in sin at the same time. So, we temporarily forget God.
I love what writer Neal Plantinga says,
“I go hours, days, weeks at a time and never really think about Him; never really turn my heart and will over to Him; never seriously attend to Him; never bring Him in sustained focus to my mind. The thought that by doing this I am wounding the One who loves me, the thought that I am entangled more and more in the sin that brought Jesus to the cross, that thought becomes bearable and then routine. Eventually I find God doesn’t seem very real. I find myself not praying all that much. The less I pray, the less real God seems. I forget God. I forget sin.”
How did David forget that he slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband? How do preachers forget their own sexual sin while preaching God’s judgment with such vitriol? How does a billionaire extol philanthropy and preach business ethics while ripping off a whole nation in a giant Ponzi scheme?
Well, they just do what you and I do all the time every day, around sexuality, gossip, judgmentalism, racism, vindictiveness, and envy. We just forget. We just block who we are and what we’ve done out of sustained consciousness for extended periods of time.
So, we need each other desperately. I desperately need you, and you desperately need me. I need the truth, but I need it spoken carefully to me.
I’ve had folks who have felt compelled to set me straight over the years as a pastor. They feel as if it is their calling in life to come into my office and fix me. I’ve had one deacon tell me that I was the most unmerciful pastor he had ever known.
Honestly, I have some people who actually speak truth into my life and do it so well that often I don’t realize what they are doing. They might take me to lunch, and we talk, then as I drive away I think, “Oh, I see what they did there.”
The best way for a community to do this is by invitation. I have some people in my life where I’ve said, “If you see anything in me anytime in anyway, call me on it.” (I don’t need any more at this time.)
How Do I Speak the Truth?
- Pray before, during, and after one says what must be said.
- Make sure God wants you to say anything at all.
- We should have a relationship with the person with whom we are going to talk.
- We should attempt to conduct the conversation either with the individual alone or with just a few people.
- What we say must be the truth.
- We must make sure we are speaking from an attitude of love.
- We must guide those to whom we speak back to God, and the Bible.
Trying to grow spiritually without hearing the truth about yourself from somebody else is like trying to do brain surgery on yourself without a mirror.
Sometimes truth-telling it is like time-release cold medicine that doesn’t take effect until we need it the most.
Back in the nineties I pastored a church in Denver. I was young and full of vim and vigor. I took quite a bit of pride in my ability to preach, lead, and grow a church. And by all accounts that was happening. But along the way I stepped on more than a few people in order to grow my church and make a name for myself and make myself feel good.
I had a member in that Church named Dr. Richard Beal. He taught theology at Denver Seminary and Colorado Christian University. I spent a lot of time with Dr. Beal so I could learn as much as I could from this seventy-six-year-old man.
A group in the church did not like some of the changes I had implemented and were starting to grumble. I got wind of it and preached a scathing sermon about it.
That same Sunday evening I was greeting people at Church when Dr. Beal pulled me aside, shook my hand, and said, “Pastor, I just wanted to say to you that I know you weren’t speaking directly to me this morning in your sermon, because I support you and many of the changes you are trying to do, but I want you to know that you hurt my heart with your sermon. It seemed as if your sermon came from a place other than love for your people. You are better than that, pastor.”
I began to pull my hand out of his, but he would not let me go. That’s when I noticed the tears in his eyes.
…speaking the truth in love, we must grow up… –Saint Paul