Truth

Mitch Keeler, Stonepoint Member

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

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We have a bit of a strained relationship with the truth in our country.  This can be attributed to the rising cult of opinion, but it goes deeper.  We’ve even named the times the post-truth age.  We evaluate information for its truthiness.  And we are on the lookout for alternative facts and fake news.

Certainly, this is not something new, rather it is something we are much more aware of.  We are drowning in a flood of information and hear of far more instances of it.  But that does not make it any less troubling.

To me this has caused us to split into two different groups regarding where the fundamental problem lies.  The first group sees that the problem revolves around the refusal of absolute truths.  To them, the greatest problem is relativism.  The answer is easy.  Things are black or white, with very little, if any, grey.  And the world would be better off if these absolutes were enforced.

The second group sees only grey.  Every situation must be evaluated for its particular context and for the particular feelings and consequences that will be implicated.  There is a greater concern for the people and things involved than in upholding any absolute.

Life, of course, is somewhere in the middle.  We must recognize that there are absolute truths in this universe.   Just as there are certain absolute facts that must be upheld in order for our universe to function, there are similar moral absolutes that must be maintained in order for our society to function.

It’s like the discussion of the purpose of the church from Sunday; the balance of truth and love.   Some churches like to focus only on the truth, just the truth, and only the truth.  No grace, no assistance in the struggle, just constant reminders of all the things that are a sin.  All the ways that people are going to hell.  We can think of the very extreme versions of this like Westboro, but it happens on a much more subtle way in churches all across the country in every city and town.  You can even see it in the way the Southern Baptist Convention is having to struggle with interpretations on the requirements of staying in marriages versus love and grace to those impacted in abusive relationships of various forms in the wake of the controversy surrounding Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and his comments.  It’s the desire to be right above all else.

A church that is all truth is like a smoothie that is all water, beets, celery, kale, ginger, etc.  It might be good for you, but its a little bitter and tough to swallow.  Like trying to take castor oil.

Other churches come down on all love.  Avoiding the parts of the Bible that might hurt someone or be offensive, avoiding any controversy at all.  Rather focusing only on “God is Love.”  And again, while we can jump to various Universalists, it happens to a larger degree than we would imagine.  Pastors afraid to confront anyone in their church for fear of running them off.   Continuing the example, like a smoothie made of cola, sugar, candy, and chocolate.  Too sicky sweet, no substance, no benefit beyond comfort.  The syrup without the medicine.

The ideal is truth in love.  A church that loves so much, they are not afraid to correct each other in love to make sure that they grow and sharpen each other.  A smoothie that has a little spinach, almond milk, bananas, and peanut butter.  A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Because we know the reality is that the churches that focus only on truth are most often focusing only on a partial truth.  Cherry picking the truths that they wish to enforce.  Or more specifically, ignoring the truths that require them to love, to be generous, to be kind, to avoid judging, etc.  Focusing on specific, absolute truths can often blind them to smaller truths as well.

Let’s use another example.  The dress controversy from a couple of years ago.  An absolute truth would be that “the dress as bought in a store was black and blue”.  Many people used this fact to justify their view of what was visible in the picture of the dress.  Armed with this fact, there was no way that the dress could be any other combination of color.  This would blind them to the fact of another truth – “a picture of the dress where the color saturation is off, the lighting is dark, and the exposure is different can make the dress appear white and gold.”

So while it is true that we should ‘have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” it is also true that we should “first take the plank out of our own eye” and that we should “do everything in love.”

That said, the sound clip is very clearly saying “Laurel” and if you are hearing “Yanny“, you need to have your hearing or equipment checked.

For more “assorted thoughts, musings, rants, and raves on assorted and sundry topics” from Mitch, check out his blog at https://www.mitchellany.com

An American (Sort of) in Paris

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

Last night i had a dream that my wife and i were on a vacation in Paris.

We’d apparently met some people there and were about to have lunch at this outdoor café. We were seated at a long table and Angie, miraculously recalling her one year of High School French, was suddenly fluent in the language and deep in conversation with some ladies at the other end of the table. Paris-restaurant_2360820aShe was probably asking questions about this annoying French detective show she used to watch on Netflix while i was trying to sleep, or maybe if there was a Kohl’s on the Champs-Élysées.

I, who do not speak French, was sitting next to a surly man in a red sweater, feeling alone.

The people we were with spoke English really well, with only slight hints of the Inspector Clouseau accents that i expect Parisians to have. One lady saw me taking a picture with my phone and asked about my interest in photography. I responded with a way too long answer about myself, failing to engage her with questions about her camera, her phone, and her photos, the way good conversationalists do, so she lost interest mid-answer and i was left kind of alone, again.

The waiter came to take our orders, and i asked for steak and mashed potatoes. 

In Paris.

Steak and mashed potatoes. 

In Paris.

I woke up shortly after the food had arrived, when the waiter spilled grease on the khakis i was wearing. I laid there in bed, trying to piece together the dream and wondering if there was something i was supposed to learn from it, outside of ‘order freaking French food if you’re ever in France!’ (Perhaps i’ll make a T-Shirt.)

Maybe i was supposed to represent a guy visiting Stonepoint Church for the first time, not really speaking the ‘language,’ and not knowing anyone (except my wife, who had immediately fit in.) I didn’t feel welcomed, i didn’t have anyone suggesting whatever the heck French people eat—visisouise, escargot, or other things i’ve seen on cooking shows, but apparently can’t remember when it’s time to order. There was no ‘community’ to help me along, no ‘host team’ to make my first visit enjoyable. I was just there.

If i’d asked the man in the red sweater what to order at the restaurant, he would have probably told me. He just didn’t seem open to conversation. The photography lady might have told me what was good, but i didn’t stop telling my boring story long enough to ask. I could’ve texted Angie and she would have bailed me out of my predicament, but we were probably not using cell service overseas out of fear of the $8,000 phone bill. All those things were on me. 

But if the Paris people had gone out of their way to be nice, make me feel at ease, ask if i had any questions, my imaginary experience in their city could have been fantastic. 

If you’re a regular attender, and see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself. Yes, we have hosts for first time guests, but we should all think of ourselves as ‘hosts’ and Stonepoint as ‘our church.’ Take ownership, and if you see someone looking even slightly confused, get them checked in, ask ‘em questions, and get them a cup of coffee.

Or maybe in my dream, i was supposed to represent a new believer in Christ, wanting to embrace my new surroundings, but when the pressure was on, heading back to the thing i knew from my old way of life. Again, i didn’t have ‘community’ helping me, i didn’t consult the ‘menu,’ or wasn’t properly trained in how to read it. My old ‘steak and potatoes’ way of life was easier to navigate than the new waters i found myself in.

That happens a lot.

People come to faith in Christ, or rekindle a desire for a relationship with him that they’d lost somewhere along the way and start coming to church. God is drawing them to Himself. But they don’t get plugged in, don’t have friends, don’t find a place of service where they can meet new people, and slowly that old way of life starts to draw them back in.

It’s not always the sin that’s the lure…but the feeling of not being isolated, not being alone. 

Either way, i think we can learn something from my REM experience in the City of Lights. The way we treat people is so incredibly important. We get communication cards and guest surveys all the time saying how welcoming and friendly our church is. I love seeing those kinds of comments, but there’s always room for improvement. Always an extra step we can go if we’d try to see through the lens of a first time visitor, or new believer and try to answer their questions before they’re asked.

Don’t be the surly man in the red sweater, no matter what you’re wearing.