Handling the truth with gentler hands


Jesus said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He did not say: “…and the truth shall make you obnoxious.”

Yet often that is how Christians in the public arena come across — as know-it-alls eager to make all others in their likeness. We need to handle “truth” with gentler hands and less arrogance.

Many of us received a Christian education that focused on “right belief” — along with the assurance that what we had was indeed the truth while those with differing perspectives were either misled or had intentionally rejected the truth.

So the arrogant attitude seen in many public Christians is the result of a logical course built on premises such as these:

We have the “truth” that others lack and need. We have a divine command to share this “truth” with all others. Those without this “truth” are misguided and endangered. Some think they have “truth” but, in reality, only our “truth” is real “truth.” Any “truth” that is different than our “truth” cannot have any element of “truth.” Therefore, we are uniquely blessed to have discovered and embraced the “truth” and must be diligent in bringing others to our understanding of “truth.”

But does it really lessen our understanding and embrace of “the truth that sets us free” if we handle it with gentleness and humility? Perhaps that is the best way to pass it on.

3 Comments

  1. One issue is the extent of the “truth” that we possess and how we came to have it. Some tend to extend the “truth” to include every part of their interpretation of scripture, such that if you deviate in any part you are heretic and therefore possess none of the “real truth”. Others extend the “truth” only to a limited set of issues, and allow deviation on others.

    Note that the leaders of the fundamentalist insurgency in the SBC sacrificed the Bold Mission Thrust on the altar of their extensive required “truth” — it was necessary to use their words to describe even common understandings, and agreeing on almost all of the interpretation was insufficient.

    So now they intend to evangelize their “truth” in their language?

  2. As with many Baptists, you probably wouldn’t consider yourself “liberal,” but as I read this post I was reminded of a quote by Bertrand Russell:

    “The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in HOW they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment.”

    One has to wonder if we really believe the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts…”

  3. I agree with the premise of "handling the truth with gentler hands"

    I am a very liberal and open-minded Christian.

    My concern or question regarding truth: Is truth completely or partially relative to my own historical context, worldview, mental ability, and/or personal perspective or, when all is said and done, can we know anything to be true for all times and all times?

    It seems that people who see truth as less relative or not relative at all to be more harsh, judgmental, and arrogant in their attitudes, so I tend to see truth as being relative, at least our understanding of truth to be relative.

    What concerns me about my conclusion is whether there is really any truth at all, or, if there is truth, can we really know it?

    From my own Christian perspective, I have conluded that "love is the truth"; love of God and love of our fellow human beings.

    So for those who are harsh and arrogant about what they know as the truth, I listen and consider and may even agree intellectually, but I try to never act harshly. God acts in Christ to love us all. Everyone should act in love to all we encounter.

    That is my truth!

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