My way or the highway

Have you ever noticed how the church talks about the concept of “absolute truth?”  For the most part, we use that term as a weapon.  We wield it like a giant spiritual baseball bat to bludgeon anyone who does not agree with us.  If you think differently than what our doctrine clearly states, you are wrong.  And we wast no time or effort in quickly convincing you of that fact.

The funny thing is, I always think of what I believe as absolute truth, not what you believe.

I never stop to consider that those who disagree with me feel as strongly about the “absoluteness” of their truth as I do of mine.  So we let something that should unite us divide us instead.  Instead of rallying around what should be obvious to all, we instead polarize, demonize, and politicize.

It seems we Christians love to look backwards.  We look at the way things have always been done and elevate our traditions to the level of absolute.  Then when anyone dares disagree with us, they become an enemy who must be silenced.  Our truth is better than yours, so we protect ours by eliminating yours.

Why do we have to proclaim truth in such a negative way?

The good news seems more like bad news when it makes you right and me wrong all the time.

In John 14:6 Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the “…way, the TRUTH, and the life…”  So, as His follower, my definition of truth must begin and end with Jesus.  His words, His actions, His example gives me a road-map to follow in my pursuit of truth.  If it looks and sounds like Jesus, then it is truth.

Jesus certainly didn’t beat people over the head with doctrine or dogma.  He didn’t use the truth of who He was as a weapon against the infidels.  The Pharisees did that.  They were the ones excluding and judging, condemning and executing.  They were the ones enforcing every letter of the law, while forgetting mercy.  The Pharisee’s concept of absolute truth said the woman caught in adultery should be stoned.  But Jesus – the truth in human form – said, “neither do I condemn you.” 

So what am I saying?  Am I saying we are wrong to believe in absolutes?  Have I become some sort of relativist?  Some postmodern who believes that all truths are equally valid?  No, I believe in absolutes.  I believe in the absolutes Jesus taught, and they are not that complicated:

I believe that love overcomes evil.
I believe that mercy triumphs over judgment.
I believe we will be judged by how we treat the poor, the oppressed, and the helpless.
I believe “love your neighbor” transcends race, creed, nationality, and bigotry.
I believe loving our enemies is better than hating them.
I believe in returning good for evil, love for hatred, mercy for wrongdoing.
I believe we are never so tall as when we stoop to embrace a leper.

Yes, I believe in absolute truth.

I believe we are all absolutely depraved, and that Jesus came to absolutely redeem all of us to Himself.  And I absolutely don’t get to decide what that looks like.  He is the Redeemer, He gets to decide.  He has redeemed even people I might not like, agree with, or understand.  He is more than capable of revealing the truth of His love to the world He came to redeem.  He doesn’t need me to swing Him around like a blunt object used to beat sinners into submission.

Besides, love is a much more effective weapon anyway, and that’s the truth.

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  1. #1 by chellethesouthernbelle on July 7, 2011 - 9:19 AM

    it is amazing how you can come to learn such things from spending time talking to people of differing faiths and opinions…I feel like you do…and yet I have been accused of not believing in absolutes…

    I used to be one of those my way or the highway Christians, believing that how I had been taught and believed to be the “TRUTH”….but as time and circumstances and logic would bear out….it became quite obvious to me that we could not all be right about “OUR” truth, and I came to realize we all have a measure of “THE TRUTH” ….it just depends on how much “TRUTH” has been revealed to us….some 30, some 60, and some 100 fold….

    We all see through a glass darkly and shall not know all things until that which is perfect is come!

    It took my going through a desert place that I have yet to fully emerge, to learn that if I have all knowledge, all prophecy, all faith, understand all mysteries, give away all my goods and my body to be burned, yet I have not love, then I am sounding brass and a clanging cymbal…

    I have heard a lot of sounding brass and clanging symbols these last 40 years of knowing Jesus, and come to this decision…. if I never feel as if I am 100% sure of anything again, it does not matter as long as I learn to show LOVE!!!!

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
    (1Co 13:4-8)

    • #2 by Dave Kirby on July 7, 2011 - 11:14 AM

      One of the reasons I think suffering is such an integral part of the Christian walk is exactly what you described. It softens us toward others. Through suffering and hardship we come to understand that we don’t have all the answers, and that God does not fit into our vending machine. We come to understand that we are pilgrims and sojourners, and have more compassion and love toward other pilgrims and sojourners.

      Your beautifully worded comments brought tears to my eyes as I read them to my wife this morning. Thanks for sharing them. They make me want to run (not walk) down the path of love even further.

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