Sunday, April 8, 2012

Truth Deserves An Audience

“Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Recently someone asked me one of the toughest questions that any Christian can be asked.  “Do Christians believe that because someone doesn’t believe the way they believe that they end up in Hell?  Do you believe that?”  Most of the time I am asked this question because the person asking the question ran into an abrasive, thoughtless and uncaring Christian who was more interested in “being Right” than “being Loving”.

I am not saying I am not abrasive and thoughtless, I just decide to handle this question differently. 

The fact is Truth deserves an audience.  It doesn’t demand one, and it shouldn’t.  It does not force a will upon people and it does not proclaim its case in self righteous statements of uncaring abandon to the listener.  Truth in essence is humble, it asks nothing, and it just is.  If I tell my kids that water is wet, whether my children understand my statement or not matters little.  Water is still wet.  It’s a simple application of a topic most can comprehend.  If we can associate to truth being water, sometimes water being wet is not a sufficient explanation to an individual hearing truth for the first time.  Sometimes, truth is an ocean.  It’s not just wet; it’s unfathomable and impossible to navigate without help.  It’s a tsunami and a destructive force when confronted alone.  And no one likes feeling alone.

We all are different.  We all come into this life with genetic imprints and then socially develop opinions and cognitive biases over the course of our lives that when challenged make us reflect on how we believe. 

“You never find yourself until you face the truth”~ Pearl Bailey

The question about Heaven and Hell is in essence “Is what you believe in, is it true?”  This is where I as a Christian arrive at the ocean.  It’s an isolating question.  It carries its own stigma.  What someone is asking for is a burden of proof.  Christianity, to me, isn’t only about a destination at the end of this life.  It isn’t only about a way of life.  It isn’t only about how I raise my kids, how I present myself to others or any disappointment that is generated should I do something wrong.  It isn’t about the petty judgments that some Christians pass on those that live a life they think is less than perfect.  It spans more than that. 

But every focal point of understanding of what I can grasp in my finite mind comes to this:

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me

The conversation needs to be shifted and the destination corrected.  We don’t focus on a destination. It’s a person. A person who had a most peculiar life, and after his time on this earth was finished, cast a reputation that changed the outcome of billions of lives.
Some of us had someone, an individual, which made such a profound impact on our lives, for good or for harm, that we never forget them and what they taught us by their actions.  I know very few people though, who would be willing to continue till death for that one person. 

We selfishly want to live.

Do people today die for what they believe in?  Yes.  But these men, they had a chance to flee, a chance to return to a normal life without persecution.  If the man they followed was killed, and at the very least what was viewed as a religious or political rebellion was put down I could understand a percentage of them, you know, the crazies, continuing on in the leaders absence.  Not all 11. 
And more importantly, would never suspect a murderer like Paul, a persecutor of them, to actually join them.

If I critically look at the 11 men that followed this one man, this Jesus, something clicked in them that according to historical tradition sent them to their deaths in their later lives for something they continued to believe in after the Jesus they knew was gone.

That deserves an audience.  It requires us to examine evidence and forces a conclusion.  What if what they saw was true that it affected them to push through the natural instincts of self preservation?

Or was it just a collection of made up stories?  Stories gathered from many different religions of the time, taking their themes and beliefs and amassing them into a large collection which some point to inconsistencies in to force a social means of control over a large populace to obtain power?

Or is the truth stating something else. 

Is there really a God?
Is what Jesus said and what he did the truth?

It’s a personal question.  Not meant for a crowd.  Not meant for a congregation.  It’s meant for an individual.

And each of us comes to that ocean.  It deserves an audience.  It deserves our attention.