Don’t Sacrifice Truth on the Altar of Community

Let me paint a picture for you.

You are sitting in your small group, or Bible study, or Sunday school class, and things seem to be going pretty well. The discussion is robust, the group is sharing freely, and there is a spirit of good nature in your midst. And that’s when someone starts sharing their opinion on some matter. Maybe it sounds something like this:

“I just don’t think God would…” and you can fill in the blank. There’s something uneasy inside you that starts to stir up. Though you can’t pinpoint exactly why, that last statement that he or she made doesn’t sit right with you. But you look around and you see that people all around the group are nodding their heads in agreement. Even the leader it giving non-verbal cues to the person to just continue on and share.

Later, you think about the incident and the implications of that statement, and you realize that what that person thinks is actually, truly wrong. It doesn’t match up with Scripture. And you know that no matter what they might think, their opinion is just that – it’s an opinion. It’s not truth.

But, hey – the discussion was great, right? And everyone left feeling good, right? Real, authentic community happened, right?

Right?!?

And there’s the rub. I would argue first of all that community, though important, is not the most important thing we are involved with as Christians. As Christians, we deal in the truth first and foremost. That’s not to say we don’t have our opinions, and that it’s not right for us to express them. But when we gather together as Christians, we must both implicitly and explicitly acknowledge that what we’re after is not what we think, but what is true.

To that end, we must also acknowledge that all our opinions, just like our actions, our thoughts, and our emotions, must be brought under the lordship of Jesus. Share opinions if you want to, but the end you are looking for is not what I think, or what you think, but what God says and therefore is true, even and especially when that contradicts our own opinions.

Secondly, I would argue that what we experience, if absent of the truth, is not actually true community. Friendships, as God intended them, are to be for His glory. That doesn’t mean that we necessarily have a Bible study every time we are together with friends, but it does mean that the highest goal of all our relationships is to help each other follow Jesus. This goal requires that we tell each other the truth.

It requires that we are willing to wound each other, for wounds from a friend can be trusted, because we wound one another for the greater end of helping each other. This is true community – it’s not only where we all feel welcome; it’s not only where we all can share our burdens; it’s not only where we have a good time; it’s where we do all those things to the greater end of helping one another.

It’s an easy path to take when our highest goal in community is politeness, but it’s not the true end. We must not sacrifice truth on the altar of what we suppose to be community. We must move beyond.

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2 Comments

  • Tim says:

    Part of the problem in this picture is that believers are very unpracticed at two way communication. We are highly practiced in one way communication which shuts down our abilities to:
    1. Come fully prepared in advance with scripture and time with God on the lesson. One way communication (otherwise called preaching) leads believers to gather with no preparation or expectation to participate verbally at all.
    2. Hear the voice of the Spirit direct us in a verbal response to what is said. The Holy Spirit is more interested in getting to the truth than we are. He gives wisdom on the spot, IF we are paying attention to him. He may deliver it through a believer we had no idea was even listening to the Holy Spirit. Our deep dependence on one way communication with no opportunity to respond teaches us (without ever saying we should not respond) to not even listen to the Spirit for a response or think deeply enough about what is said that we should even want to share a response with the speaker later.

    Community life is a severe paradigm shift from the lecture routine that dominates church life. You cannot instantly jump from years of one way communication and grasp the heart and soul demands of two way communication. There are 58 “one another” instructions, plus many more “each one” instructions that cannot be taught with one way communication. They can only be taught by example in mutuality and intimacy.

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