I heard it again today from a preacher friend. “Our country is far from God, and the church needs to rise up and declare the truth!” There was a chorus of “AMENs!!!” – except from me. I actually cringe when I hear this admonition, especially in the context of a bunch of baptist preachers (which I am also, by the way).
What do we really mean when we say statements like that one? What will “rising up” accomplish? What does “rising up” really look like? And how are we defining “truth?”
The Gospel of John may help clarify this for those who consider themselves “churched,” if we will have ears to hear.
John seemed to connect the word “truth” with the word “law.” Whether he thought of them as synonymous is unclear, but what is clear is that he saw them in relationship to one another. Why am I so sure of this? Because of John’s introduction.
In John 1:14-18, John seems to contrast the way “law” was delivered by Moses with the way “truth” was delivered by Jesus. Check it out:
The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, “This was the One of whom I said, ‘The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ ”) Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side — He has revealed Him.
(John 1:14-18 HCSB)
John wrote that they had observed the glory of the Father in the grace AND truth of the Son. He went on to declare that we have all received an abundance of grace – “grace after grace,” pointing to the way Moses delivered law in comparison to the way Jesus delivered truth. Verse 18 helps us understand what John is doing here. John asserted that “no one has ever seen God.” But Jesus “has revealed Him.”
Whereas Moses delivered rules that commanded lovely and gracious living, Jesus delivered the Truth that revealed the love and grace of the Life-Giver. The Law more than anything else exposed our unlovely, greedy living. In contrast, “grace and truth” exposed how loving and gracious God is.
John would go on later in his Gospel to quote Jesus as teaching, “I am the…Truth” (John 14:6). What the Law could not declare and demonstrate, Jesus did. He brought light into the world (John 1:1-13) that exposed our selfishness and insecurity along with our propensity to hide in the darkness of our shame. However, at the same time, He shed light on the Truth, Himself being the Truth, that God was forgiveness us from our selfishness, securing us with His grace, and inviting us out of the darkness of our shame into the freedom of His name. “Jesus.” “Yeshua.” “Yahweh saves.”
Grace after grace.
Whereas the Law highlighted our condemnation, Truth AND Grace brought the life-giving light of our salvation up close and personal. Jesus revealed what God had been communicating all along by declaring and demonstrating Truth in the tone and skin of grace.
Do we as His followers do the same?
Maybe we need to heed the command of Jesus from John 13 when He washed His followers feet. He told them to go and do what He had done. To declare that He is truth while going close enough to serve. To demonstrate that He is Truth while relating graciously.
Maybe instead of “rising up and declaring the truth,” we need to get on our knees and declare it.
Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
(Romans 2:4 HCSB)
May we never forget how God extended His kindness to all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves “churched.”
GRATEFUL, may we go and do the same.