Honest Love

“Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him” (1 Jn. 3:18-19).

Kim Scott was an executive with Google and other tech companies.  She tells about hiring “Bob,” a likeable guy with a stellar resume.  Soon it was apparent he couldn’t do the work. She and the rest of the team covered for Bob…for a while.  She finally fired him.  He reacted, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I thought you all cared.”  It was uncaring to let him think all is well.

Love embraces truth, and truth matters.  For example, if it’s true that God made you, then that defines you.  Truth matters because this is a sin-marred world that is good at deception.  It matters because you cannot be anything you identify yourself to be, and you’ll ruin yourself trying.  Isn’t it loving to be honest about that?

This might be inside baseball, but I’ve witnessed a lack of loving honesty among those who claim to represent the Christian worldview.  Is as though they realize the message of the cross really is scandalous and needs softening, modernizing.

The soft line is that if you try hard to do better, that’s enough.  Hope your good outweighs the bad. God loves you anyway and knows you try. So, keep trying, Bob!  The modern take is that if you interpret the Bible the right way and account for the current cultural mood, you’ll see God actually blesses what used to be “sin.” Great job, Bob!

Here is some honest love.  The Bible says you are a broken, lost sinner in need of a Savior.  That’s the scandal.  You are not “basically good” but when God re-creates you in Christ, you inherit His goodness.  Your high calling is to live out that new identity.  Transformed by the love of Christ, you don’t excuse or bless sin; you abandon it.  You flourish as a human by believing what God says about you and by being reconciled to God through Christ on His terms.  Love doesn’t participate in lies and omissions.  It speaks the truth even when painful.

In the foreword to Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel,” Rich Mullins states the gospel of Christ as “the good news that, although the holy and all-powerful God knows we are dust, he still stoops to breathe into us the breath of life – to bring to our wounds the balm of acceptance and love.”  Living by that good news is the best antidote to a world untethered to reality.  To know and speak that truth is honest love.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

Effective Follower

“Follow the science!” is the cry of parents who have lost their patience with school districts in America yet to resume in-person learning. They have heard that the CDC has given a green light to opening schools closed by the COVID pandemic.

The CDC published guidance that “presents a pathway to reopen schools and help them remain open through consistent use of mitigation strategies.” It also says, “As science and data on COVID-19 continue to evolve, guidance and recommendations will be updated to reflect new evidence.” I appreciate the recognition that science isn’t “settled” in this case. In fact, science often overrules previous conclusions based on new evidence. So, to “follow the science,” you need to be somewhat circumspect.

The human effort via science to understand our world has yielded fascinating and powerful results. It has provided discoveries and inventions that affect many aspects of our lives. Yet science does not and in fact cannot have all the answers. Take the COVID vaccine, for example. Science has answered the question of how to prevent this infection. But science cannot answer who ought to be the first to receive immunization. That is a moral question, one lost on the people who finagled a way to jump ahead of nursing home residents and healthcare personnel. They followed the science, right to the front of the line.

Floating around in the minds of people today is the worldview that the universe began with a spontaneous, self-caused event which produced our solar system. Over millions of years, life fermented from a broth of ancient oceans and evolved to what we see today. With such unintentional origins, it follows that you should decide your morality and control your destiny. So why not jump to the front of the line, following your desires?

On the other hand, if God created you then He has much to say about life and morality. Science, then, becomes one means to know the Creator as revealed in the physical world. The more science reveals the mysteries of creation, the more difficult it is to deny the Creator. Follow the science and behold the transcendent! John Lennox writes, “There is an intelligent God who created, ordered and upholds the universe. He made human beings in his image…endowed with the capacity not only to understand the universe but to enjoy fellowship with God.”

The Bible says that by Jesus “all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible – through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). To enjoy fellowship with Him, answer His call to “Follow Me!” Do that and you will experience the life of an effective follower.

“Great are the works of the Lord. They are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever” (Psa. 111:2-3).

The Narrow Way

I have a Peach Pass.  That means I can exit the multi-lane freeway through the toll gate and use the single lane with light traffic that skips past the notorious Atlanta congestion.  I usually experience survivor’s guilt when I see the hapless souls stuck with the trucks, going nowhere.

It reminds me of something Jesus said.  “The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14). It’s not the small gate and narrow way that alarms me.  It’s the “few who find it” part.  He also said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).  He went on to describe people who were knocking on a door claiming with futility the head of the house should know them.

Why is the portal to the truest expression of human life, living in communion with God, hard to find?  Part of the answer is God’s common grace.  You experience the beauty of creation, the love of family and friends, or success in your endeavors and things seem right with the universe.  If life is good, you can fail to realize that you still need to be reconciled to God.

In “Screwtape Letters,” C. S. Lewis imagines comments by a tempter sent from the devil, whose enemy is God.  Screwtape says, “The only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light…Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”  Indeed, the wide gate and broad road are the comfortable, default way of life. That’s alarming.

But all is not lost.  Once, people asked Jesus, “Who can be saved?”  His response?  “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).  God has made a way when there seems to be no way.  To be specific, Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).  He is the small door.  He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  He is the narrow way.

My Peach Pass works in the neighboring states of Florida and North Carolina.  They have welcomed me to travel on those privileged lanes.  It is good to know that the right way to travel is open to you, even if it is narrow and few find it.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven lead me to turn from my ways, to know the Way, and to walk in him.

Healing Words

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity… (It) sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell (Jas. 3:5-6).

Smith College is an elite women’s liberal arts college in Massachusetts.  It is suffering from too much attention lately, including a recent article in the New York Times.

Cafeteria worker Jackie Blair worked on campus at a camp for children during the 2018 summer term.  One day when a college student entered the cafeteria, Blair mentioned that it was reserved for the children.  The student ignored her and took food to a nearby lounge area.  A janitor saw the student in the closed dorm and notified campus police per protocol.  The officer made brief contact with the student but took no action.

That evening the offended student posted on social media, “It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith.” She claimed racial profiling and gender bias. She “doxed” Blair and a janitor (who wasn’t there).  Her words set the world on fire.

The college put the janitor on leave.  They initiated police sensitivity and staff anti-bias training.  During that training, Jodi Shaw refused to accept the premise that she is inherently privileged and biased because of her race.  She resigned and may sue the school as a hostile workplace, an ironic twist.

Blair has been harassed by major media outlets.  After being turned down for a job she said, “What do I do?  When does this racist label go away?”  Recently retired Tracey Culver said, “We were gobsmacked – four people’s lives wrecked.  How do you rationalize that?”  She said that because a law firm investigated on behalf of the college and found no evidence of bias at that dorm incident.  The original offense never happened, though the Times insisted the student’s deeply felt personal truth mattered more than facts.

I have no interest in taking sides here, but I do see this as an example of the power of words.  They can tear down, set afire, and deceive.  Or they can encourage, edify, and reveal.  Speak quickly and you will say the most impactful words you will ever regret.  Slow down, manage your emotions, and consider whether your words are true, kind, and necessary, and then your words will reflect wisdom.

The world today is complicated by social and moral upheaval, but how you speak to it is not. Consider the simple lesson from Sunday School:  “O be careful little tongue what you say!  For the Father up above is looking down in love.  So, be careful little tongue what you say!”

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Prov. 12:18).  Speak healing words.