Outrage calmly erupted at my breakfast table when, after reading from James 3:1-12 on the tongue, I addressed every person sitting there with me, “Your tongue is evil.” The retort was, “That’s mean.” My response was, “No, the Truth is not mean.”
I feel that we are inundated with a cultural tide of tolerance that denies the truth for the sake of nice. Our ability to take a stand within these rising waters will be directly related to our ability to hear God’s prophetic voice in His Word as a Word that reveals the truth about us. Just as we may say in organizations, “Facts are our friends,” in the depths of our souls, “Truth is our friend.”
Daniel joined the ranks of the great prophets when he interpreted the dream of the great King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, and called on him to “Renounce your sins.” The dream terrified them both. Yet Daniel respectfully and fortunately with a liberty granted by the King pronounced the judgement and hope in God’s graceful vision to Nebuchadnezzar. Then, he says, “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce yours sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (Daniel 4:27) King Neb did not heed the warning and suffered the full extent of the vision, but he also became the poster child of God’s sovereignty and grace. He experienced the humbling power of God to bring down the proud, but he also experienced the graceful power of God to exalt the humble. As Nebuchadnezzar shares in his testimony contained in Daniel 4, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
For the follower of Jesus, Truth in the Word of God becomes intensely personal for it is the sword of the Spirit. Declaring it does not exempt us from the challenge of “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance,” as John the Baptizer says in Matthew 3:8. But if we value nice we will treat truth as meanness, and we will join in with the throngs who seek a broad road rather than a narrow path. We will abandon our birthright of authority that is intended to accompany the obedience that comes by faith and the sacrifice that comes by love and the endurance that comes by our hope. We will be nice churches–and no one will listen.
The call to honour the Living Trinue God by renouncing sin sounds mean when it challenges the accepted norms of our own goodness, but it is the sound that gracefully invites us to enter the fullness of life.