The beatitudes end with this thought:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. Matthew 5:11-12
As Christians we are to be a truth telling people. We believe in capital T truth. We believe that just as there are God designed laws that govern the physical world there are God designed laws that govern the moral world. We believe that there are absolutes that govern moral choices and that these do not change according to the majority opinion of our society.
Because we believe in absolute moral truth our explanation of our faith has always been concerned with explaining “the truth”.
Until recently our message has usually been accepted or rejected on the basis of whether or not what we said was “the Truth”. This is somewhat obvious but there is something we need to understand. The credibility of our message has, until recently, depended upon a commonly held cultural assumption; that moral truth [absolute truth] exists.
Until recently, there has existed the belief that absolute right and wrong moral choices exist, in other words, that “sin” exists. For Christians sin is a big issue and so forgiveness of sin is a big deal. And so we explain our faith in terms of forgiveness of sin. So far so good.
But, what happens if moral truth is no longer accepted?
What happens if our society no longer believes there is any such thing as “the truth” when it comes to morality? What happens if the idea of truth is removed from the discussion?
This is what we see happening between Jesus and Pilate [the Roman governor who judged Jesus]. “Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a King. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked.” John 18:37-38 Pilate dismisses the idea of truth and the discussion ends.
What happens when we try to tell people they need to be forgiven because they have violated God’s moral law but they don’t believe there are any moral laws [just social conventions that change with public opinion]? At the very least they think we are old fashioned and they ignore us or, depending on the issue, they accuse us of being judgmental. At worst we are accused of being “haters”, the moral equivalent of racists.
None of this is new. Being misunderstood comes with the turf when attempting to speak an unpleasant truth to anyone about anything they don’t want to consider, but the problem is much greater than just being the bearer of an un-welcomed word of correction.
The foundation of the discussion has changed.
We come out onto the playing field of discussion with our football equipment on. Our heads are covered with the helmets of truth. We are ready for some serious head to head contact – truth on truth! What we find is that the field we thought was a football field is actually a soccer field and the other team is dressed for a soccer match. Of course they think we are out to get them, look at how we are dressed!
THE GAME HAS CHANGED! THEY THINK WE ARE OUT TO DESTROY THEM!! [Stayed tuned for the next post – the answer in part 2]