These days it seems the national pastime is drawing lines in the sand. We have lost our ability to discern nuance and subtlety in any topic of discussion, and issues quickly polarize into us vs. them. The greatest fear in public discourse is admission that the other side may even be remotely on target. Validation of any part of an opponent’s message is a sign of weakness. We have become a people who define ourselves by our disagreements. And Christians are some of the worse offenders.
God has called us to be truth-seekers, but we have found it’s more fun to be lie detectors.
No One is 100% Wrong.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:6, “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” How much rejoicing with the truth are we Christians doing these days? Look across the blogosphere and interwebz and you will see people whose lives would end if all wrongdoing ceased. They get up each day looking for the next opportunity to gleefully point out the wrongdoing of others.
The Bible does not mince words when it comes to sin. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter and others all confront sin head on. However, none of them rejoice in recognizing wrongdoing. The constant call of the Bible is to turn away from sin and turn toward God. In the Bible, God is beckoning us toward the truth. Are we really celebrating with the truth if we spend all of our time seeking to prove how wrong everyone else is? We hunt for the others’ falsehoods like Easter eggs, rejoicing each time we dig one out of the grass.
But we all have to admit this certain truth: no one is 100% wrong. In fact, most people out there probably agree with you more than half the time. But we fear that admitting that a false teacher, a non-believer, or an opponent is ever right–let alone 50% right, yikes!–will weaken our position. Even worse, it might give the impression that we condone their wrongdoing or false teaching.
Can we rejoice with the truth wherever it is found? Do we really have to maintain this rigid and ever hardening us vs. them mentality? How do we sift through a messy and depraved culture to sort out God’s truth?
Suppressed Truth Is Truth No Less.
Romans 1 explains how the world has slid into deep sin and depravity. Paul writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). It is not that non-believers don’t know the truth, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19). In their sinful rebellion against God, they choose to reject God’s truth.
It’s like they have tried to throw a large quilt over the elephant in the room. However, in trying to hide the elephant, they are in fact acknowledging that he does exist. The rest of us standing in the room with them can still see the trunk moving around under that giant quilt and the four thick limbs descending from it. Nobody is really fooled. Even when men deny God’s truth, we can still see the bulky silhouette, hear the trumpet blast of a trunk, and smell the tell-tale sign that there is in fact an elephant under that giant quilt.
We are made in the image of God. It is impossible for any of us to suppress everything, because God’s truth is knit into the very fiber of our being. It’s like a hose with eleven leaky holes. You’ve only got ten fingers. The water’s going to leak out somewhere. Our very existence shouts forth the existence of a Creator even if we shout even louder in denial of Him. Even the impulse to deny the existence of God rather than the existence of unicorns implies that the God men vehemently disavow may actually be out there.
Celebrate All Truth as God’s Truth.
I read Mike Cosper’s The Stories We Tell a few weeks ago, and his approach to television and movies reminded me that we must hold together the truths that man is totally depraved and that he is made in the image of God. When man fell, the image was marred, but man did not become an orc or a goblin. He is still made in the image of God. Cosper’s book identified the elephants hiding under quilts all over the film industry. Just because men are sinful does not mean that their work is completely empty of truth. By design, the image of God–no matter how marred and broken–cannot fully suppress the truth and beauty of its Creator.
When we look for truth in the work, speech, writings, and art of non-believers, it does not mean we are affirming their sin or their falsehood. When we seek God’s truth even among non-believers we are affirming Romans 2:15–“They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.” God’s truth is written into man’s DNA. He cannot help but express it.
It is not helpful nor is it God-honoring to pretend that men made in His image in no way reflect Him. Additionally, we limit our ability to converse with sinners in need of Christ if we insist on lambasting them at every turn for being 100% false in every part of their life and thought.
We have to cultivate our ability to recognize and rejoice in God’s truth, whether discovered in radiant clarity in the Bible or hidden under a dusty blanket in the back corner of a gritty film.