The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.     Proverbs 18: 17

I can say a hearty AMEN!, to this proverb. When I was a police officer I spent many a day sitting in court, and sitting through many a trial. I found trials quite intriguing. Trials follow a very specific and detailed process, while slow, actually allows the judge and/or jury to have a more rounded picture or what really occurred. It’s one thing to hear one side of the story, but it’s quite another thing when you hear the other side’s version. What you thought was the truth turns out to be a part of the truth – but not the whole truth. It’s when you hear the whole truth that you are able to come to a right conclusion…most of the time.

Now, in case you think that is all this proverb is about…allow me to unpack it for you. This proverb speaks to a much deeper issue, and that is what we think we understand/know about a situation, person, or what we think we observe, is generally not a full understanding.

Here’s the problem. How we view people, any given situation, or even what we observe, is not necessarily the true reality. Let’s take something that we have all observed. Have you noticed when the moon is close to the horizon that it appears much larger than usual? The natural tendency is to think that the moon must be so much closer to the earth – hence, why it looks bigger.

The truth of the matter is the Relative size hypothesis. Huh?? Simply put, objects in the vicinity of the horizon moon exhibit a fine detail that makes the moon appear larger (Wikipedia). Okay, to make sense of what I’m saying, it’s the same thing as the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where a circle appears larger when surrounded by smaller circles, than it does when surrounded by larger circles. Really? Well check this out.220px-Ebbinghaus_Illusion.svg

Bottom line, not everything is at it appears at first glance. And that goes with everything. So next time you’re itching to jump to a conclusion because, “I just call it as I see it!”, remember the Ebbinghaus Illusion.

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Same Sex and the Real Issue At Hand

Every month I meet with a couple handfuls of pastors from our fair city, mostly to hang out and eat lunch and chat. Which is great and just the way I like it. I enjoy just ‘being’ and not having an agenda or a ‘to do’ list. Perfect.

Last month when we met we decided to add a ‘spice’ to the mix. It was suggested that we should discuss things that are relevant for us, some ‘meaty’ topics. I threw into the mix the idea not to avoid any challenging topics, such as…same sex issues that is sorta on the front burner for many churches/denominations.

It was only a suggestion.

However, by the end of the day, an email had been sent out with the details of the next lunch and that ‘Scott will lead the discussion on same sex issue.’

Yay.

I’m actually expecting a good discussion with these guys. But to say that I’m a little bit nervous would be an understatement.

If I was a betting man, I would hedge my bets that they are coming knowing very clearly where they stand on the issue. And to be quite honest, I really don’t want to know where they stand. In fact, I don’t even think that is the issue here. I believe the issue is: Can we have a conversation and ask any and all questions, and even think through or allow to be questioned what we believe is the ‘right answer’?

I say all this because I find that if I try to have a conversation with anyone who thinks they ‘know the answer’, defences go up, stances are defended, and cliche answers get tossed around. I realize that much of this reaction comes from fear, insecurity, and ingrained beliefs (whether accurate or not). I also wonder if that fear reaction speaks more to our lack of faith/trust/belief in God, than it does to any ‘strong faith’ we think we have.

This past month I’ve been reading and listening to various opinions on the same sex issue, and not because I don’t know where I stand, either. I just want to be able to sit down with anybody and just listen to them, and ask some non-threatening questions for the sole purpose of being able to better understand them. As well, I am trying not to have a reply waiting in the wings, but to acknowledge that their thoughts and opinions are just as legitimate as my own.

Here’s what I’ve learned this past month…

  • I don’t have it all figured out
  • there is freedom in choosing not to judge
  • it takes effort to listen and not spout off
  • it actually does enhance your understanding of the subject matter
  • I am trusting more
  • people are easier to love
  • Christ’s yoke really is easier, and his burden is definitely lighter!

Oh yeh…my meeting with the pastors is in three hours!

Oh I Wonder, Wonder…

I’ve been thinking a lot about church, the people that lead it, those who attend it, the programs we run, why we do what we do and why we struggle to simply row in a similar direction.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about the church – not the institution or organization, but US…’the church’. By that I mean all of us who believe that Jesus is the son of God. That his message is true. That he came to give us real life. And that he has called us to be his followers/disciples…his image bearers in this world.

And I wonder…

I wonder about our different approaches to Scripture and doctrine. How we can read the same words and yet be miles apart on what those words are saying?

I wonder how it is that we can have this insatiable thirst for reading Scripture, studying it to the nth degree…and yet we forget or choose not to ‘do’ Scripture.

I wonder why we think we have God all figured out when we can’t even figure ourselves out.

I wonder why us leaders of churches never ask the question: “Why do we do what we do on Sunday mornings and during the week?

I wonder how it is that we are the ones that answered Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come to me all you who are worn out…’, and yet us Christians are some of the most worn out people around?

I wonder how it is that we can think we have it all right, and yet the way we treat others in the world you’d swear we have it all wrong.

I wonder why those who are not followers seem to be attracted to Jesus and yet want nothing to do with his church. Come to think of it, I wonder why there are so many Christians who are so attracted to Jesus and yet want nothing to do with his church?

But what we don’t see is the ‘church within the church’. I think of it as the ‘silent church’. This has nothing to do with the institution or organization, it’s the followers of Jesus who meant what they said when they said ‘yes’ to Jesus’ invitation. They quietly go about their day-to-day lives, bringing the gospel through their actions and words to a hurting and bruised world.

They may not have taken all the Bible studies, nor attended every meeting or conference that’s offered, nor served in a leadership position. They have fallen in love with Jesus and they are the ones that are bringing real change to our world.

And so I wonder if the real church is the subversive one that is going about life doing little things with great love. They don’t have all the answers to our theological questions. They haven’t figured out who’s in and who’s not. They simply love God, love Jesus, are filled with his Spirit, and rather than trying to figure the church out, they are being the church.

CAN I ASK A QUESTION?

So I have this dilemma that I’m trying to work through, and I’m hoping that somebody out there can give me a bit of insight. A couple of weeks back I preached a message on being with Jesus, contemplating his last days as he was preparing to go to the cross. Naturally, a topic such as this leads to having an intimate relationship with Jesus, linking it to the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father.

Now because I had a great Dad, I have no problem using examples from my boyhood of our times together…and it is so easy to transition right into my close relationship that I have with Jesus. On that Sunday I pointed out that Jesus actually calls us friends, and desires a relationship with us similar to what he has with his Father.  I then gave everyone a handout that gave step by step instructions on how to have those ‘contemplative’ moments with Jesus for four days during Holy Week.

So far so good.

I then walked everyone through a sample of what a contemplative time could look like. As I looked out over the auditorium, it was clear that people were encountering the ‘Father’s love’ for them. Perfect.

The service was slowly brought to a close. People were gathering their things up, others we’re chatting with their neighbours, and then there were others who were still engaged in prayer. And then it happened. A person came up to me with bewilderment and questions written all over their face. They shared with me that they have a really hard time with talking about God as their Father. They didn’t have that type of relationship with their dad as I did with mine. In fact, their dad abused them. As I listened to them explain the pain they experienced as a child, I couldn’t help but wondering how many others that morning had the same difficulty with me referencing God as ‘Father’. I prayed for them that they would experience God’s love this week. They left with some hope. I left with many questions.

We only get one father in this life, and if that father is a ‘piece of work’, then referencing God as ‘father’ probably isn’t a good thing. Or is it?

I’ve been thinking about this since that Sunday. If the Bible referenced God as ‘mother’, my perception of God (and maybe my relationship) would be different. I had a good mother, but she wasn’t like my father. There are a couple of ‘issues’ that I have had to deal with as an adult, and still have to work out in my more insecure moments.

So I put this question to my home group. One of them said that they couldn’t relate to God as ‘father’ because of their experience with their own dad. They suggested I could use ‘teacher’ because probably everyone has experienced a good teacher. But we don’t get to choose our ‘dad’ – what we get is what we get. And some of us are not that lucky.

I’ve wondered if I should not use any comparison of God’s love towards us? But the Bible does. What about if the only good example we have is an uncle, can people see God as their ‘uncle’?  Maybe, but at the same time, I want to be faithful to Scripture.  The last thing I want to do is stir up ‘bad memories’ or painful emotions in someone. More than anything, I want people to encounter the God who loves them with a pure love, like no one else can.

I’ve also wondered if maybe I should take the opposite approach – that God demonstrates what a true ‘father’s love’ looks like, not what our earthly father’s love looks like. But at the same time, I don’t want to put a ‘heavy’ on dads and make then feel like complete losers that don’t and never will measure up.

Any suggestions out there?