Dropping the S-Bomb

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6Bomb

37 years ago I was hugely backslidden. Since I’d been in full time ministry before my fall, quite a few people had known me and were, I’m sure, perplexed and angry at my rebellion. Some of them contacted me, in person or by mail, trying to reason with me and persuade me to turn back, and I cannot describe how weird and miserable that felt.

When a couple old friends came to me personally and reminded me of everything I used to teach – the Lord’s imminent coming; the need to press on as believers; the deceitfulness of personal compromise – I bristled and coldly told them not to judge me. When a sweet lady wrote me begging me to repent, I tore her letter up and flushed it. And when a young man sought me out to remind me I was violating scripture, I in turn reminded him he had plenty of his own dirty laundry to wash. During each encounter I stayed calm, smug, determined to look unruffled. Then I’d go home where all emotional hell broke loose as I’d shake, sweat, fight nausea, and, in most cases, get drunk hoping to ward off the discomfort of being confronted by old friends.

They dropped the S-bomb on me. They told me I was in sin. And I hated it.

Open Season on Messengers

When truth challenges error something’s gotta give. You can either close your ears and hope to ignore it, admit your wrongdoing and turn from it, or shoot the messenger. And these days, for whatever reason, messenger shooting seems to be trending.

A number of books, statements and sermons by popular speakers are turning the concept on sin on its head, making the sinner the victim, and the person calling the sin “sin” the persecutor. Viewed that way, the problem is no longer the sin being committed by Party A, but rather the mean, judgmental, callous, you-fill-in-the-blank Party B who’s confronting the sin. And a whole new take on morality and our responsibility to each other is introduced: the sinner’s the good guy; the prophet’s the villain.

I think I get it. I mean, when old friends held a mirror up to me, I had to do something with what I saw, and denigrating them was a handy way of avoiding their true, but inconvenient, message. So I told myself they were old school Pharisees, busybodies who needed to get a life, brainless fundamentalists living in a bubble. They were, I assured myself, inflicting emotional wounds on me with their corrections, and the discomfort I felt was the trauma of being cruelly judged, rather than the conviction of the Holy Spirit over my deliberate and ongoing sin. They, not my sin nor myself, were the problem.

It’s an old story, I guess. In Acts 7, Stephen gave a pointed and boldly delivered Bible study to an unreceptive group of religious leaders, indicting their hardness of hearts and spiritual blindness. Faced with an unflattering portrait of themselves they chose to ignore the message and shoot the messenger. Or chew the messenger, actually, gnashing on him with their teeth and stoning him.

These days, I honestly think some would criticize Stephen for being too insensitive; too direct. And the gnashers? Victims of an ignorant Evangelical’s tirade who were rightfully expressing their indignation.

Truth Mishandled is Still Truth

For sure, plenty of believers have mishandled the sin question, making some sins (but never their own) out to be the worst; shaming and belittling; drunk on self-righteousness and absent anything resembling grace. Yet the mishandling of truth by a few is a poor excuse for censoring the many. It’s a scandal of the modern church, I believe, that we’re so quick to cry “Pharisee” when someone is simply reiterating standards and definitions God Himself gave us to learn, live by, and yes, exhort fellow believers to live by as well.

My old friends caused me pain, but they didn’t hurt me, because not all pain is bad. They were respectful, gentle, refusing to name call but willing to call out. And to this day I remember them, and bless them, for their willingness to speak truth
in love.

Because the S-bomb is, at times, an appropriate and necessary term, coined by God and instrumental in, as the author of Hebrews said, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.”  (Hebrews 4:12)

So let’s shoot neither messenger nor sinner, and let’s not shy away from a love that compels us to consider not what makes others more comfortable, but what hopefully draws them to truth, and to Him. Because if what we communicate to each other is not grounded in truth, then it’s anything but love.

Comments

  1. I needed to read this tonight! So timely.

  2. As always, your writing is so timely, so relevant. And best of all, you do such a great job of speaking the truth in love.

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