When Truth Gets Personal
SEPTEMBER 20, 2023
Some people think I am prideful and arrogant—and they are right.
They do not even know the half of it. I sometimes struggle with humility, which is kind of surprising given that I hardly know anybody who has more reason to be humble than I do. However, there is one area where I sound arrogant and prideful, and actually I am not: Jesus likes me a lot, and I honestly think that he likes me more than he likes you—about ten percent more.
Lest you criticize what I just said too harshly, the fact is that if you cannot say the same thing I just said, you probably have not understood the essence of the Christian faith. Believers are like a bunch of children saying to one another, “Dad loves me more than he loves you! I’m his favorite.” Christians have the sort of father who makes them all feel that way.
Most effective Sunday school curriculum writers have made sure that children see Jesus—his kindness, gentleness, and love—as more important than his moral and ethical teachings, his comments about theological truth, or his cleaning out the money changers in the temple. That is wise in teaching children; but it is just as wise in anyone’s journey. Properly understood, getting to know the story of Jesus (a nonfiction story) and his love is the starting and ending point for Christians. It should be the starting point for the communication of Christian truth.
In fact, God leads with the message of Jesus’s love. Christians really do love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is the story of his love and how Christians experience that love—absolute, unconditional, and eternal—that makes all the difference in how Christians interact with unbelievers. Christians are not communicating—they are introducing. I do not have a theology to share but a friend to meet. Theology is important, but that is not a good place to begin.
Communicating and living the truth to people who do not want to hear or see it is 95 percent attitude and 5 percent technique, knowledge, planning, and training. Actually, attitude may be enough. Paul said that Christians have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), and said in Philippians 2:5 that they should “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Sharing truth is not so much about what Christians do, how much they know, or how smart and good they are; it is an attitude. The attitude starts with Jesus. Christians are called to smell like Jesus. When that happens, maybe what Jesus said about people being drawn to him would become far more apparent.
People are always saying to me that, while they are glad for the message of God’s radical grace, Christians must be careful because people will take advantage of it. These people say that grace sometimes appears to be a license to sin. They say that telling people that “no matter where they have been, what they have done, who they are sleeping with, what they are smoking or drinking, the lies they have told or the people they have hurt, they should run to Jesus because Jesus will accept and love them” is a dangerous idea. Of course, these people are right. The fact is, I have taken advantage of that message more often than I like to admit, but that is the point. When I do, Jesus still loves me. Is that dangerous? Of course, it is! But, in fact, it is the only idea Christians have worth dink.
If Christians want to communicate truth to those who do not want to hear, it is very important that they lead with Jesus and let the devil take the hindmost.