What happens when you mix noble aspirations with unswerving dedication? We like to assume you get people like Paul, Augustine, or Mother Theresa.
But we also get people like Olympic swimmer Cameron Van der Burgh. Van der Burgh (gold medal winner) brazenly admitted to cheating, explaining, “It’s not obviously – shall we say – the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work.” Van de Burgh’s hunger for gold compelled him to discipline his body, embrace pain, and sacrifice much of his life, all for his cause. At some point along the way, his integrity was also sacrificed on the altar of his dedication.
My fear is that we share a trait with Van de Burgh–the habit of sacrificing the essential on the altar of our own dedication.
I keep hearing that Truth is under attack. I keep feeling the goad to be alarmed by the political landscape, or primetime TV, or the tenor of casual conservations with my neighbors. I keep hearing the sounding of the trumpet, championing the ideal of proclaiming the Truth, protecting the Truth, never compromising the Truth. Plus, I keep hearing that Truth can be offensive, and the implicit message that every offense should validate my onward march and reinforce my steely resolve.
However, what we typically mean by ‘proclaiming and protecting the Truth’ seems to be nothing more than drawing lines in the sand. It seems that the Truth needs to be protected by categorizing and announcing who is in and who is out. It seems that proclaiming Truth is left inadequate unless it means bringing the full biblical witness to bear on any key issue in every conversation. It seems that refusing to compromise our stance on Truth must compel us to always look others in the eye, tell them they are wrong, their behavior is despicable, and their entire life is built on a lie.
We say that the most loving thing we could do is to proclaim Truth. What if the most loving thing we can do is… love? What if we’ve gone the way of Van der Burgh by sacrificing loving God and people for the ideal of proclaiming and protecting truth?
Because any truth that calls us to trivialize the person standing in front of us is no Truth at all.
Jesus is Truth, and Jesus is for people. The gospel is Truth, and the gospel is for people. Truth is for people, and people need the Truth.
What if we remembered that Love, like truth, will set us free? Set us free to listen. Set us free to learn. Set us free to walk alongside, unconcerned about how it ‘might look.’ Set us free to engage in conversation without always having to add, “But, you know I believe that’s wrong, right?” Set us free to let the Holy Spirit convict instead of bearing that weight on our own. Set us free to proclaim Truth in word and in deed that truly frees one from their sins, rather than enslaving them to our judgment.
What if we felt free to surrender the power of holding the cultural upper hand?
May we be free to love.
May we love like Jesus, who was free to see the Samaritan woman as a person, not a clashing theological concept. May we love like Jesus, who was free to choose Zacchaeus’s table without any promise that he would ever embrace justice. May we love like Paul, who in Athens was free to emphasize commonalities instead of differences as a means of demonstrating God’s singularity. May our love free us to live at peace, to leave revenge to God, to bless those who persecute us, and to be proud of our friends in low positions.
May we never share Van der Burgh’s false podium of mistaken devotion. Instead, may our devotion to protecting the unassailable Truth always free us to fight for those who are lost, and never against them.