(Part 2, by Paul)
The pursuit of truth and justice is a bad enterprise if one desires a life of physical or mental peace and happiness. I know because I have journeyed there for most of my adult life. It’s hard to even sit down and watch a movie with my family because the movie has to be ‘logical’. “That would never happen!!” Then everyone tells me to go to another room and read a book.
Like my father, I served as a pastor for nearly 20 years (he over 45 years). Unfortunately, the truth part caught up with me and bit my hiney pretty hard as I crashed and burned, all as a pastor, a husband, and a father. Sundays conveyed my greatest letdown of truth. The pastor image was not the same guy as the real Paul. Oh it wasn’t that I was a raging alcoholic or doing drugs or visiting hookers, I just wasn’t the man people thought I was, or the man I wanted people to think I was. I was caught in a trap that catches many pastors of not always doing what we taught others to do.
Then there is the growing recognition that truth and justice may not be interpreted the same by everybody. For example, those of us who say we are conservative see a blurred line between helping the poor and enabling the lazy. The liberal view might say that those who have wealth should give it up for those who don’t, kind of like spreading the wealth. The conservative typically states that marriage is between a man and a woman while many liberals state that humans are free to do and marry who they please without moral judgement. You will find just as much passion of belief from each side of that fence. Unfortunately, we are becoming very divided by things such as this. I have just as strong a feeling as the next person on these subjects. But this is about truth and justice.
In my very rural neighborhood is a congregation of very conservative and traditional Mennonites. They are maybe one or two steps more modern than the Amish in that they drive cars and have cell phones. As a whole, very nice and wonderful people. Above everything else though, they are known throughout the area as being people of integrity. Besides how they dress and the strictness of their rules (excommunication for having a TV??), what makes these people so true and yet so different? While there is much about the rules that I don’t buy into, they are so driven by the fact that the Bible really is their code of honor. The parts they focus on, these are beyond argument. These are absolutes that cannot be challenged.
Those of us who are into the ‘greater grace’ arena could probably stand a few absolutes. We have ushered in an era of not identifying sin because to do so may offend. We have become ‘seeker sensitive’ to the point that having a changed life is no longer critical. The church as a whole has ignored passages like Matthew 23 as we continue to build man-made kingdoms with spiritual CEO’s and professionals with PHD’s, operating in buildings that cost 10’s of millions of dollars. But truth and justice continue to elude. James writes “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Another ignored statement is by Jesus when He says “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So unlike the modern rendition of what we see as church. There is a serious lack of truth and justice.
I’m not too prone towards visions, just mostly nightmares. But quite a few years ago I saw ‘something’ that stirred my inner being. The setting was on a large boulevard in a city with traffic and people rushing up the street. There were papers and leaves being blown by the bustling movement of people. Everyone was in a hurry to get someplace. As I stood gazing at the rush, I just happened to look down a side street and saw Jesus standing there with his hands in the air as if to say “what are they doing?” In that moment I felt that I was seeing the church, so wrapped with its programs and schedules that it completely missed where Jesus was.
For the past nearly two decades I have been brought to a standstill. My resume probably looks like crap. I sell RV’s to people who don’t need them. I don’t even sing in the choir (nobody would want me to). But I might be a little closer to truth and justice in my own life. I’m kinda liking Jesus more as my taste for religion wanes.