Threat to society
Truth and grace
Whew! This week's post asking Do Christians who commit suicide go to heaven? unleashed a flood of comments on ChristianPost,
which picked up the piece. (It had originally appeared in Billy Graham's Decision magazine.)
I was called, in alphabetical order, "apostate," "heretical," "ignorant," and "non-Christian."
I'm not shocked since my writing
has also been labeled as "[bleep]-ing dumb, "dumb [bleeping bleep],"
"hateful," "intolerant," "homophobic," "retrobate" (I think she meant reprobate),
"right-wing, conservative Christian nut case,"
"sexually perverted" and a few other colorful labels not suitable for a PG website.
That's to be expected when you write about sex, moral issues and
spirituality. And that's why any writer needs tough hide and a tender heart. (Just don't get the two switched!)
I was actually more sad rather than mad, because these recent attacks came from professed Christians! And the judgmental tone against anyone
suffering from mental illness (I'm clinically depressed with ADD and just a touch of Asperger's) was appalling. "Anyone who commits sucide goes straight to
Truth is not always pretty. That's why Jamie Buckingham wrote, "The truth will set you free, but first, it will make you miserable."
But the apostle Paul writes about "speaking the truth in love." He urges his readers, "Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
Unfortunately, many people of faith do far better at speaking their version of the truth than saying it with love.
For instance Fred Phelps and his "God hates fags" protest group proclaim their version of truth that God does indeed hate "[crude term for homosexuals]," "dog kennels/pig sties masquerading as churches," and pastors who are "demon-possessed Pied Pipers from Hell."
Okay, really bad example. Phelps verbal vomit is neither loving nor true. (God loves every personincluding homosexualsunconditionally. He's not always happy, but He's always loving.)
Jesus, however, got it right, being described as "full of truth and grace." It's a tough balancing act, that truth and grace thing.
Some people claim to be full of grace and, so, are "tolerant" of all behaviors believing that truth is "relevant" and that there are no moral "absolutes." (Many mainline denominations are voting to recognize same-sex unions claiming biblical admonitions against such unions is no longer applicable.)
Curiously they are absolute that they know the truth and have no tolerance for those who disagree.
Then there are those who claim to be full of truth, who loudly proclaim judgment on those whom they believe are disobeying God's law.
Curiously, Phelps and others seem to be neglecting what Jesus proclaimed is the second greatest commandment, to "love your neighbor as yourself."
Neither extreme is exhibiting grace or truth.
But Jesus strikes a perfect balance between grace and truth.
He prevents the stoning of a woman "caught in the very act of adultery" (grace), then tells her to "go and sin no more" (truth). He befriends a socially outcast woman (grace), then tenderly confronts her concerning her multiple marriages and current affair (truth). And sometimes, Jesus simply shows grace to a crooked tax collector ("I'd like to come to your house for dinner") and the IRS agent discovers his own truth ("I'll pay back double what I've extorted.")
A good modern example of this balance are Christian groups in Africa teaching abstinence as the most effective way to combat AIDS
(truth) while, at the same time, caring for it's millions of victims (grace).
God powerfully convicted to attempt this balance when I was writing Death & Beyond. I was searching for a title
for the chapter on reincarnation. Shirley MacLaine had written a book promoting reincarnation called Out on a Limb. I thought, "Out of Her Tree"
would be the perfect to rebutt the belief. God seemed to smack me side of the head and say, "If, through my Holy Spirit, I can get Shirley MacLaine to
pick up your book, will this writing draw her closer to Me or push her farther away from Me?" That convicting question changed my writing
And so, I conciously strive to remain on the balance beam of grace and truth in my writing. I received an email a few years ago concerning my post
Why is God so bent out of shape by
homosexual behavior?. Here's the email:
First, I want to tell you I'm a gay atheist. Second, I want to thank you for your compassionate approach in your article. If there is a god, I want him to
be like the one you described.
So, sometimes I get it right!
And thank you for being gracious enough to keep reading this imperfect attempt to speak the truth in love. You're great (truth)even you who
send flaming emails (grace)!
(c) 2005 James N. Watkins [Updated 2013]
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Absolutely enjoyed reading it. Thanks for writing it.
email@example.com July 2005
Hi, Jim. Just read your piece regarding the response you received to
your article. I just read the book of Jude this morning and his warning
about those who exchange the truth in the name of grace dovetails well with
what you are saying. As I grow older it becomes more and more apparent that
we sinners would all like to reshape the truth to accommodate our nature.
Of course, that's what keeps many people from accepting grace - they love
their "sin" more, which, of course, they neither admit nor recognize as
such. To try to reshape love - to accept sin in the name of tolerance or
compassion or whatever name - is to deny Christ and the cross as being
wholly unnecessary for any kind of atonement or redemption. I also thought
of I Cor. 2:12-15; those who responded as they did
are those being described by Paul here. Keep on "speaking the truth" in
love. firstname.lastname@example.org July 2005
God loves everyone? What do these mean?
"As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Romans 9:13).
"The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Psalm 5:5).
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17).
Isaiah Phelps-Roper (July 2005)
Great question! Let's stick with the Romans 9:13 passage: "As it is written, Jacob have I loved,
but Esau have I hated" (KJV). The Greek word translated "hate" is miseo: to hate, pursue with
hatred, detest. (No getting around it!) However, it is the same Greek word used by Jesus when
he commands, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,
and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
With that in mind, it would seem miseo would be best translated in both passages
as "loved less." The Apostle John writes in his first letter that "God is
love." Obviously God cannot contradict His very character, but that doesn't mean those who
reject Him are exempt from His judgment either. God is both merciful and
judgmentaltwo things that we humans have trouble getting our heads around.
Most important, God loves all, ". . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9,
You have a good balance. That's why you get an equal number of complaints
by those who value grace over truth, or truth over grace, or believe that
truth is relative to their personal capacity for grace (e.g. Fred
It doesn't take a Bible to demonstrate that homosexuality is an
aberration. Darwin is quite sufficient. What I like about your position
on civil unions is not making it relative to any particular choice of
relationship -- any two or more people who want to be responsible for
each other's finances and terminal medical care can register the
intention. Why? That is none of the state's business. And, as you always
say, don't call it marriage. Alexander the Great did know the difference
between his wife and his male lovers. email@example.com July 2005
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