Have you ever seen self-righteousness masquerade as truth-telling? There’s a strange habit you might have noticed among some believers who respond “with truth” to anything that is said in the negative, or that even slightly fails to reflect glistening hope, or that displays your brokenness. The “truth” comes as a glib correction with phrases like “you should not speak that over yourself”, or “you should not do that” or “you must not be negative”, etc. The context for what you’re saying does not matter, nor does the need for authenticity, or that you might just be having a wobble. In fact it could have even been a slip of your tongue, but they will never have the chance to know that because they are so busy giving you the smug-faced notebook answer. You may not have even been looking for an answer but you just got one.
The previous blog was called Truth Tellers and Miracle Workers, this follows on from there, I’d suggest reading both. On one hand, us hardy truth-tellers are built to go for truth like we would go for the jugular, but on the other hand we need to balance it with the need for safe spaces, safe people and authentic community. If we cannot walk together in authenticity whilst pursuing real hope, then I think we would have lost the plot.
And what is the fruit of forced christian smiles and an external pretence that all is fine when it is not the internal reality? It bears the fruit of struggles being hidden from view because we have no place for it; in its extreme this has resulted in suicides even among pastors. The fruit is often also hidden sin, because with a culture of falseness comes a culture of shame. The fruit is families suffering in silence, because the abuser’s veneer is well received in public. The fruit is also exhaustion because the smiling mask is simply exhausting to keep up.
I’ve seen pastors cover their brokenness or pain with a brave and flawless smile week after week until the burn out was too far gone. I’ve see Christians turning to the world who they find less judgmental and more at ease with the brokenness of humanity. I’ve also seen people hitting bad mid-life crisis’ because the mask slipped off in the brief moment when no-one was watching. Self-righteousness masquerading as truth has no victors.
Real Truth comes from real love; it feels safe and it has the fruit of freedom.
Jesus was safe. Full of Truth. But safe. One look in His burning eyes would make a tax collector undo his injustice and another turn from a life of sin, and yet He was safe enough for the prostitute, the widow, the child. He was safe enough for the most broken to come before the greatest judge ever and not leave feeling smaller or lesser or weaker.
How can we become like the Father? How do we, truth-tellers and light-bringers learn to talk less so we can hear more, learn to catch the heart of the person sharing and to allow the safety for authenticity? How can we better reveal the Heart of the Father, and have people leave our conversations feeling better than when it started? How do we build relationships and bridges that can sustain the weight of the truth that must come? It will surely take more than “Christianese” to heal a broken world; it will take the revelation of Christ in us the hope of Glory.
Truth-Telling must be balanced with Love. This takes a willingness to mature as a believer. Truly we cannot take out the speck in someone else’s eye if we will not deal with the log in our own (Matthew 7:5). For then the truth is mis-placed, the love not real, and the authority lacking. Equally important in this conversation is the need to receive correction. Correction is often a bitter pill to swallow, but it sure helps when it comes wrapped in the Father’s love and there is no scent of other motives.
“Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” John 8:32