First, Do Good. Then, Speak Truth.

September 14, 2017

 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong…While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people…Acts 3:6-7, 11-12

Are you old enough to remember when it was said of the U.S. that our “national pastime” was baseball? I can remember it being said. I’m not sure I ever really believed it. Those were simpler times, to be sure. Nicer times. Less complicated. But what about today? What would you suppose is this culture’s favorite pastime? My educated guess is this: having a “take” and making it known. We are living in a culture obsessed with finding creative, persuasive, (controversial?) ways of communicating our beliefs or opinions about every single happening or news item or public personality. Racism? Here’s my take… Same sex marriage? Here’s my take… Abortion? Here’s my take… Politics? Here’s my take… Evangelicals? Here’s my take… Muslims? Here’s my take… You get the idea. It’s an obsession. All of us feel compelled to have a take and make it known. And we spend an enormous amount of our time either reading/listening to other people’s takes or coming up with our own.

In the Christian world, we usually call it “speaking the truth”. We may or may not want to be seen as going along with the crowd, so we may or may not intend to jump on the social media bandwagon of “have a take and make it known”, but we do feel a need to speak the truth in a world filled with lies. And so we do. And in a world of screaming opinions, our “take” then just adds to the white noise of a culture screaming its “takes” out into the universe. It is a chaotic conglomeration of noise and opinions and rants and pleas. And we wonder why fewer and fewer people listen to us. Even the truth gets lost in such a culture.

But Jesus taught a different model for speaking the truth; a model to which we in the church would do well to stick. You will recognize it immediately if you have done any reading of the gospels at all. More often than not, Jesus would DO something amazing, something helpful, something miraculous, and then he would teach about it. More often than not, his speaking of truth would be preceded by an act of servanthood or helping or healing. He would first cause a miraculous catch of fish and then he would call those fisherman to follow him. He would first heal a lame man and then use it as an illustration in his teaching. He would first feed thousands of hungry people and then teach about it. He would first wash his disciples’ feet and then teach about it. You see, for Jesus, his good acts provided the very foundation for his speaking truth.

No surprise, then, that his disciples followed the same pattern. Peter first healed a lame man at the temple gates and then taught about it to the crowd which ensued. Peter did not START with a sermon or a message or a catchy Facebook post. He first DID GOOD, and then he spoke. It was how Jesus taught him. It was what Jesus showed him. And it has been a model for the church ever since. But is it a model we value today?

Do you wonder why the Christian church today seems to struggle so much with what the world might call an “image problem”? Could it be because we have been screaming what we believe to an unbelieving culture and have made the DOING GOOD a mere side dish to our speaking the truth? What if, BEFORE I speak the truth about the social issue du jour, I actually engage in a friendship with someone with that struggle and do good in his or her life? I wonder what that would do for my ability to speak truth?

These seem like important questions to me.

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