Easier written than done, this truth-telling. Yesterday marked the birthday in 1906 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, author and Lutheran pastor. He was also a 20th century Christian martyr. Why? He told the truth about Hitler and Nazism.
So, I wonder, how truthful am I? And, how willing am I to hear the truth when spoken about me or my ideas? Well, to be honest, which is the subject, after all, I’m too soft. Which a catalog in today’s mail reminded me.
For two days, I stayed inside. Today I bundled up, braced myself to face chilling winds, chip away at the ice shield covering my car and retrieve three days of mail. Among the mail, a catalog: Soft Surroundings. Now, I’ve not bought anything from that women’s apparel store in years but they’re slow to give-up. And, I must admit, I’m drawn to the idea of soft surroundings. Which, being 70% Norwegian, is shameful to admit. They’re tough. Some would say thick, as in thick-headed. “Tick.”
Well, where am I going with this? Back to the hard truth. Truth is tough, not soft. I really wanted to shift to politics but that would be easier than taking a hard look at The Church in the USA and at myself. So,if you’re running low on truth-tellers, I recommend these three to you.
1.Philip Yancey in his recent memoir, Where the Light Fell. A book, a mirror, a serious diagnosis accompanied by healing doses of Grace and Hope.
2.David Brooks in his opinion piece in the NYTimes 2/4/2022: “The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism from Itself.”
3.Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example of courageous faith to speak truth about Hitler and Nazism. For such he was taken from prison in 1946, where he’d just finished leading Sunday service, and hanged. As he walked to his death, he said to those still in prison, “This is the end but for me, the beginning of life.”
As I reflect on these past few years in politics and the pandemic, I lament the loss of who I thought we were, as followers of Christ. The Church, too often, confused many and contributed to the division we’re still experiencing. But not through courageous truth-telling. I lament my own preference for soft surroundings. Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” But how and when to speak? As Anne Lamott wrote,” You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it, too.”
In David Brooks’ article, he concludes with a quote from Karen Swallow Prior, “Millions are looking for something else, some system of belief that is communal, that gives life transcendent meaning.” To which David added, “Christianity is a potential answer for that search, and therein lies its hope, and the great possibility of renewing its call.”
And Philip Yancey’s book delivers a probing look into faith, family and the power of words. I remain sorrowful over the sins we commit against each other in the name of God. But mostly, with an overwhelming sense of God’s far-reaching Grace in Philip’s life and mine. Nobody loves us like God does. And God who knows better, still opts for Grace.
All three, in the end, left me with HOPE about what’s possible when we dare to look truth in the face and open ourselves to change and challenge the Church to become something radically new. As new as the New Testament view of how it looked to follow Jesus.
So, now what? For me, it’s a daily decision to follow Jesus. And affirm through my choices, as Philip reminded me,
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold…
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;”
But it’s tempting to do otherwise than say, “I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy name.”
It’s hard to resist: riches, applause, and world-wide fame.
So why do it?
To be true, faithful to Jesus and a cause bigger than ourselves. Like truth-telling. Simple’s not easy.
So thank you, Dietrich, David and Philip. Thanks to you, too, Anne, for your language too fresh and radical for some. You, like Philip, nudge me to look again, listen longer, resist stale words.
And now, in conclusion. Are those not four of the best words in the English language for a sermon or blog that’s gone past its point?!
I heard that, “Amen!“
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