Truth Can Win

I’m guessing you heard the news about Jussie Smollett. He’s an actor who claimed he was attacked by two white men in Chicago because he’s both black and gay. He said they hit him, used bigoted slurs, put a noose around his neck, poured an unknown substance on him, and shouted, “This is MAGA country!”

Almost as soon as his story made the news, he was the golden child of the Democrats and the progressive Left who, together with their partners in the mainstream media, were doing all they could (and still are) to frame conservative America as deeply intolerant and unforgivably racist. Suddenly, Smollett’s relatively less-than-profound career had found powerful traction. He became a prominent guest at events, went on talk shows, and was even granted a primetime interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.

I watched the interview. Smollett cranked up the emotion and Roberts fawned, almost grotesquely. It was hard to watch, and not because I sympathized with him, or because I felt shame for being a conservative, but because something wasn’t right with Smollett’s story. Like so many others who watched it, I didn’t believe what he was saying. The thing is, much of the law enforcement community involved with the situation disbelieved him, too. Still, a few higher ranking officials in Cook County managed to pull enough strings to shield their celebrity friend from any attempts to reveal what was, even in their minds, looking to be a hoax.

Eventually, the tables turned. A fair-minded prosecutor was presented with the evidence, namely, that the men involved in the supposed attack were not even white, but black, and Smollett actually hired them. As it would go, Smollett was charged with six counts of orchestrating a hate crime against himself. Last week, the case and its facts unfolded before twelve jurors, and on Thursday, Smollett was found guilty of five of the six counts. Truth defeated untruth.

But it almost didn’t, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, I’ll let you in on a little secret—and I’ll bet it’s one to which others who do what I do for a living would likely nod in agreement.

It’s likely the reason I choked on the believability of Smollett’s interview with Robin Roberts is because pastors are pretty good at spotting liars.

If the job is being done right, no small portion of a pastor’s time involves interfacing with the underbelly of Sin’s grossest offenses. Lies rule in this realm. In one sense, this is true because the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44), labors tirelessly to maintain this dimly lit kingdom. Pastors know this. They know he uses lies like a model maker uses glue, connecting this and that misshaped part to create a seemingly insurmountable monstrosity that’s eventually found capable of hiding truth in its shadow. Still, I won’t place all of the blame on him. Even without his crafty influence, sinful humanity is more than capable of maintaining a kingdom of deceit. The Sin-nature is a powerful wellspring that feeds every human being’s ability to lie to others, and perhaps most disturbingly, to lie to oneself. What’s most troubling about this tendency is not only that it so often demonstrates itself with a twisted joyfulness—as if to suggest that without the ability to lie, humanity would be overcome by boredom—but that lying seems to be the first thing people will do to acquire what he or she wants, or to defend what he or she already believes.

Again, if pastors are doing their jobs, it’s likely they know the telltale signs of deception. They know the signs because they’ve heard and seen the same forms of dishonesty in countless situations. For example, all too often the man who confesses to having fallen out of love with his wife eventually proves he’s had eyes for another woman all along. He didn’t fall out of love. He lied to justify his desires and get what he wanted. Pastors see this all the time. Another example that repeats itself: It’s not uncommon for disgruntled church members to blame their unhappiness (or non-existence) on the pastor or a fellow member of the church community, landing on just about anything they’ve done or said as cold, unloving, or offensive. In my experience, the disconnect usually has to do with the wayward person’s desire to embrace an ideology or behavior contrary to God’s will and Word. It’s only after the pastor and church community have spoken truthfully to the errant Christian about the dangers of his or her living that the trouble begins. It’s then that the ones reaching with the truth are no longer counted as friends, but rather as unloving accusers. And yet, they’re not unloving. That’s a lie. They’re being faithful to both God and neighbor. They’re seeing a fellow Christian in need, and rather than closing their hearts to the opportunity for expressing God’s loving concern, they act. As Saint John points out, they epitomize love “in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18). On the contrary, the one who stubbornly refuses the truth is living in a perpetual darkness ruled by lies (1 John 1:6-9).

I could go on and on sharing similar examples, but I promised an explanation to my previous comment about truth nearly losing to untruth in the Jussie Smollett situation. What I meant is that if those who knew the facts had decided not to go the extra mile for truth, had those who were bothered by the lie being guarded by the people in power chosen to remain silent, an already monstrous narrative of untruth would have gained a deeper footing in America. But honest people took a chance at confronting dishonesty. They took a chance at offending the false narrative. They pursued truth, and truth won.

We can learn from these nameless advocates.

By their diligence, a deception was uprooted, and justice was served. What’s more, the blast radius of truth’s detonation revealed the scoundrels intent on weaponizing the lie. Thankfully, those frauds were silenced. Whether or not those same people are dealing honestly with themselves when it comes to public opinion, I don’t know. I will say that until they come clean, they’ll continue to simmer in their own foolishness in a glaring way. In other words, if I were Robin Roberts, or any of the other liberally progressive automatons who condemned anyone who questioned the verity of Smollett’s story—and this includes Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and countless other ever-droning agendizers in government, Hollywood, and mainstream news and entertainment outlets—I’d apologize to America soon, all with the hope that my gushing foolishness would be soon forgotten. I’m sure the social media giants at Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are certainly doing whatever they can to help scrub the crime scenes.

In the end, my real hope is that the shame these people are experiencing will not only shepherd them toward honesty, but will encourage them to measure their responses in the future. Admittedly, my hopes are not high in these regards.

So, why bring any of this up? Well…

A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Stand up to the lies that claim otherwise. Maybe take a chance and write a letter to the NCAA. Push back against their woke policies allowing transgenders to hijack women’s sports, ultimately stealing away so many well-deserving female athletes’ aspirations. The Smollett case has shown us that truth can win.

A person is not inherently evil because of the color of his or her skin. Fight in your communities and school districts against the deceptive race theories that claim otherwise. Go to the school board meetings. Call your local representatives. Do these things knowing truth can win.

An unborn child is a unique person, both dignified and worthy of life. Muster as much muscle as you can against the pro-choice devilry that would call this untrue. Get involved with your local Right to Life chapter. Give of your time and treasure to the cause. Be present at the gates of a Planned Parenthood to pray. Do this. As we’ve seen, truth can win.

Again, I could go on and on with this. The list of topics that would benefit from truth’s pushback is long. And yes, it also includes much of the pseudo-science that’s driving so much of what Americans are being required to endure these days. Against these looming deceptions, know that truth is forced into the shadows when those who are to be its hands, feet, and voice remain quietly indolent. Perhaps worse, truth teeters at the edge of burial when we wait for someone else to act.

I suppose in conclusion, whether any of us chooses to engage on behalf of truth, we can all rest assured that truth won’t settle for our disregard indefinitely. It certainly won’t forever tolerate those in the Christian community who, having been offended by it, take their marbles and go somewhere else. As I’ve said on countless occasions from the pulpit here at Our Savior, eventually the Last Day will come and the divine light switch will get flipped. In the bright-beaming streams of Christ’s return, even as every human being alive and dead will be found on their knees paying homage to the approaching King of Kings, all will see and know what is true and what isn’t. Joy or regret will be the two available emotions as all deceptions are stripped away and the final standards of judgment are laid unquestionably bare. By God’s grace at work through His revealing Word right now, Christians are equipped for that day. Through faith in Christ—the One who is truth in the flesh (John 14:6)—we are not only rescued from the perils of Sin and the regret it brings, but we are given hope for that moment of moments. Just as wonderfully, we are changed to know and desire truth in the here and now (John 8:32; James 1:18), and we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to protect and defend what is true (1 John 4:6).

By that same Gospel of deliverance in Christ alone, be strengthened to stand for truth. I say this knowing that if anyone is truly destined for the job, indeed, it’s Christians.

No Room For Compromise

I mentioned in Bible study yesterday morning that I had an interesting phone conversation the previous week with a visitor to our early worship service. I called her as a follow-up to her visit. She was intrigued by our worship practices at Our Savior—why we do what we do—and this led us into a deeper discussion about the doctrinal distinctions between various churches. At one point along the way the word “compromise” arrived on the scene of our confab.

I think Pastor Zwonitzer did a great job of thinking this through with us in his sermon this past Wednesday during the midweek Advent service. He spent time with Romans 15 talking about the things that are required for unity among God’s people, and he did this also while touching on the subject of adiaphora—that is, the things that are neither commanded nor forbidden by the Scriptures. With adiaphora, there can be compromise. Although, I’ll say that how any particular worshipping community handles adiaphora is often a demonstration of what they believe regarding the required things. But that’s a conversation for another day.

In the meantime, compromise is a word that makes a lot of sense to people these days. We’re looking for reasonable compromises to be made by our leaders when it comes to COVID restrictions. We’re hoping for amenable give-and-take between friends who may be at odds with one another over this or that particular issue. We’re longing for a spirit of cooperation to emerge between differing groups of people as we do what we can to navigate what has become one of the most turbulent eras in the history of the United States.

But having said all of this, there are times when compromise is just not an option, namely, when handling objectively true things. As it meets with the Christian Faith, take for example the theology of the divine inspiration of God’s Word. It goes without saying that this doctrine must stand uncorrupted, and any compromise in this regard must be seen for what it is: evil. To compromise on the divine inspiration of the Scriptures—which is to make wobbly its inerrancy and immutability—is little less than to call a dishonorable truce between good and evil. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that such an ungodly armistice is likely to occur when fear and uncertainty creep into and among the faithful during struggle. But the thing is, it’s in these very moments when the faithful, no matter how peaceable they might want things to be, need to hold the line at all costs, understanding compromise as the false virtue that it is in such a moment. It won’t be easy to do. Trusted voices from seemingly rationale folks will be calling the brave folks foolish. Still, it’ll be necessary in these moments for faithfulness to outclass the rational fear of death. Indeed, as Shakespeare said, “Courage mounteth with occasion,” and of course we can never be sure of the measure of courage we’ll actually need until those occasions arrive. We just know we’ll need it, and we’ll know that compromise won’t be an option.

God willing, this is how we function here at Our Savior. We are mindful of when and where compromise is an option and when and where it isn’t. For example, you’ll never hear a sermon absent the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your sins. Why? Because that’s the heart of the Gospel, and it’s the job of the preacher to preach the Gospel. There’s no compromising on this. Another example: You can count on us to hold the line of God’s Word with regard to altar fellowship and the practice of the Lord’s Supper. Saint Paul is pretty explicit in his teachings in this regard in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. We will not compromise on these things.

There’s something else we have been unwilling to compromise. Unfortunately, many have tossed it into the category of adiaphora.

In-person worship.

Of course we’ve made adjustments here and there with regard to how we do it. All of those adjustments have been adiaphoric things. But in-person worship itself is not adiaphora. It is mandated for all able-bodied Christians. And so we do it, even when the government tells us we can’t—even when Christians mistakenly press for their own church to close its doors because they believe it’s the best way to “love thy neighbor.”

Interestingly, I read an article in passing last week that was shared by my friends, Rev. Joe Bangert and Rev. Paul Clark. It was entitled “Mental Health Improved for Only One Group During COVID: Those Who Attended Church Weekly.” I’ll bet you can figure out what the article had to say about the results from a recent Gallup poll. Suffice it to say, I was not surprised by what I read. People who’ve been attending worship regularly during this unsettled time are proving to fare far better mentally and emotionally than everyone else in the world.

Again, I am by no means surprised. But some in the church remain surprised. Or perhaps more accurately, embarrassed. Scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a comment from another pastor who shared the same article while urging caution with the accuracy of the findings. Of course he found fault with it. But then again, his church has been closed to in-person worship since March, and this study is suggesting he may be hurting his flock rather than helping it.

Heralding the importance of being present in worship during the COVID-19 unrest has been an uphill battle for many pastors and churches right from the beginning. Admittedly, here at Our Savior, the conversation was a little dicey at first. I remember a handful of scalding emails from folks when I announced internally that I was offering multiple in-person services (with the administration of the Lord’s Supper) throughout the week. The flame of concern got a little hotter when I actually recommended people sign up for and attend one of the in-person services instead of staying home and watching the online ones. I recall similar commentary aimed at me on social media when others whose churches were closed learned what I was doing. I was called unloving. I was called dangerous. I was called rogue. I was called foolish.

For the most part, that tenor has subsided, and many of my detractors have come back around and are actually doing what we’re doing—which, by the way, God continues to bless our efforts to uphold Christian liberty through mindful practices and procedures that have more than proven their effectiveness, even when cases of COVID were found in our midst. Again, I’ve believed all along that when it comes to actually loving our neighbor, what we’re doing here far outpaces anything being done out there by the big box, grocery, and retail stores.

As a community of faith navigating all of this, we needed to hold steady on the importance of in-person worship. We needed this objective truth to win the day. And it did. God saw to it. Because of this, a majority of His people here at Our Savior have remained spiritually (and yes, emotionally) healthy while so many in the world around us have starved and are now at the end of their cerebral ropes.

I guess one reason all of this comes to mind is because I sort of touched on it in Bible study yesterday. But I only scraped the surface. As we go deeper, we can find the encouragement for anyone who may still be fearful of attending in-person worship to consider coming back and giving it a try. Be calmed by the love of your Savior, and trust that He would never hurt or harm you by the faithful administration of His gifts of forgiveness. We’re not experiencing outbreaks. We’re not a super spreader. We’re not rogues. We’re Christians seeking to be faithful to Christ, and by His blessing, seeking to be faithful in the world around us.

Again, give it a try. The doors are open and the table is ready. And what a joy it would be for us to be together once again for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.