CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Oh, I am REAL good at right and wrong. But nicey-nice? Uh…

I have been corresponding with a friend for a while on an issue that we both are working on.  John is my accountability partner with internet use and so on, and I would be so far from where I am if not for him.  Over time I have had several guys to whom I made myself accountable, and I am so grateful for their work and prayers.  So, thank you to Randy, Carl, Doug, and John.  May God richly bless you for taking the time to work with a hard head like me on such a difficult issue.  I remain a “work in progress,” but any success I have had is due to your prayers and work.  Thank you.

Anyhow, my correspondence with John took a turn in an interesting direction the past couple days.  We have come to a point in our discussion where the focus is on matching Biblical Grace with Biblical Truth, and not as separate issues.  This is what John said:

“Grace and truth often appear to be in conflict with each other and yet Jesus was FULL of both at the same time.

At the risk of offending you and apologies if I do, you are FULL of truth and light on grace. We need to be FULL of both and that’s so very hard (seemingly impossible) to do.”
A couple of weeks ago our Pastor, Bob Klecan, gave a message that I discussed earlier (see my earlier post, “Exclusive? Definitely.  Inclusive?  Even more so,” put up on August 19).  In just a sentence or two, his point was basically this: do I want to win a point, or do I want to make a mark for eternity?  And this is a difficult issue for me.
This past Sunday, Pastor Bob made a point that I paraphrase in this way:
“Christianity is unique from other religions in this way: other religions offer advice on what I must do so that in the end God may accept me.  Christianity says that I CANNOT earn my place with God.  ALL I MUST DO is accept the gift of God’s salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ.  All I must do is repent, NOT first from my sins, but from my righteousness; from that which I think makes me ‘good enough’ to stand before God.  THAT is the ‘gospel;’ THAT is God’s Good news.”
Although the previous point is no problem for me, the others above are issues I have struggled with for a long time.  If one is familiar with the Bible’s New Testament, one is familiar with various personalities.  The Apostle John is rather a dreamer, a mystic.  He appeals to many “artsy” people, but for me he’s a bit too touchy-feely.  Ick.  At the risk of catching rocks, I just don’t identify with John.  Paul, I like.  Straightforward, intellectual, I like to read his stuff.  I like his mind, and I like his logic.  But of all the characters in the New Testament, I probably identify with Peter the most.  Peter, the impulsive one.  Peter the hard-head.  Peter the one-hundred percent committed one that was willing to jump into a sword fight and die with or for the unmistakable Messiah.  Peter, the one who denied that same savior not once, but three times in a matter of a couple of hours.  That’s me.  So the issue of grace and truth is a difficult one.  Truth?  Easy!  Grace?  Not so much.  Also, I want to point out that there are people on Facebook in particular that I really care about and although we disagree, I would never want to hurt them.  With them, it is no chore to be “nicer.”  I love them, and enjoy the debate, but harsh?  I just don’t want to be that to them.
In this post, I talk about two issues: divorce and pornography, and I need to make a couple of points now.  First, I think pornography wrong in each and every instance.  It’s pretty clear according to scripture that looking at someone not your spouse with lust is as destructive and sinful as adultery.  So in no case is porn ever ok.  Divorce is not so cut and dried.  Scripture maintains a few instances where divorce is acceptable, if not ideal.  For the sake of brevity, I would count those reasons as a partner’s infidelity and one suffering abuse.  Further, if one is divorced, so be it.  I have no condemnation for anyone in that place.  But I think in our “no fault” society, we are far too quick to dump someone for any reason what so ever.  And that is what I’m talking about below.
Edited, I responded to John’s email (above) in this way:
Ok, pretty much my whole life I’ve been angry, but I’m not sure exactly at what.  My Dad used to tell me (a lot) that I was going to wind up in jail if I didn’t get my temper under control, so this is not a new phenomenon.  Further, I have always had a strong sense of justice.  Mom used to tell of me coming home from school and after watching kids pick on other kids that were weaker or whatever, talking about how that wasn’t fair.  Finally, I do tend to see things in black and white.  It’s right or it’s wrong, and if it’s wrong, then it’s wrong.  Period.  This part serves me well with things like fidelity and purity, but maybe not so much in my relationship with people.
Now, that having been said, I have long maintained  that I don’t care what you think, or what I think, or what anyone thinks; what does the Word of God SAY?  And if something is spelled out as right or wrong, then there it is.
And here’s where all of the above clashes.  On controversial issues of the day, I have little patience for a unitarian approach, whereby if that’s what one wants to do, well, that’s just fine.  But I also recognize that the “hammer” approach doesn’t often win a lot of converts (or friends for that matter).  So, where does that leave me?
I think that with people whom I trust and feel comfortable with, like Beth, and those of you in Small Group, I feel free to just say what I think, and not hold back.  But that doesn’t really give an accurate representation of what I think, who I am, how I respond, and what image I put forth to the world.  I was talking about this to Beth and she observed that I seem to have “a public face and a private face.”  True.  Especially after Bob’s sermon two weeks ago, I have been trying to be a bit “softer” in my approach on Facebook.  And for a long time, I will rant about our daughters to Beth, but when talking to them, I am much more subdued.
I think I have two issues here.  First, quite honestly, I get tired of taking it.  I get frustrated with people taking foolish or just plain wrong positions, and acting like they are morally or intellectually superior to me.  Makes me nutty. The example I gave Beth was, so if someone says, “You know what, I don’t believe two plus two equals four.  I believe it equals five,”  the response I want to give is, “Idiot, NO IT DOESN’T, AND YOU ARE DEMONSTRATABLY WRONG!!!”  But I’m supposed to say, “Well, that’s interesting.  How do you come to that conclusion?”  That is hard for me.
Second, I really struggle with this:  Who is really served by soft-pedalling the truth?  I’m just not sure.  I know I am harsh, but I struggle with being “squishy” when “capital-T” Truth is being discussed.
One example from Sunday night.  As you said earlier, I am not trying to offend, and I apologize if I do.  I noticed something that was said.  The statement was made that she has no problem with people who are divorced serving in church.  Actually, I don’t either, but like I said then, it depends on why they were divorced.  Referring to what I said above, I don’t care what anyone thinks, what does the Word of God say?  And God says, “I HATE divorce.”  Now that is pretty strong coming directly from God, and I think we are a bit cavalier about divorce.  Is divorce the unforgivable sin?  Certainly not.  But it is a serious topic that we should not just gloss over.
Most sin, I think, affects me, and only indirectly others.  Gluttony or lying being examples.  Both are wrong, both are sin, but often the main effect of either sin is directly on me.  I bear the brunt of the crushing effect of them.  But pornography or divorce very often hurt people right next to the one committing that particular sin.  I recognize that in terms of value all sins are the same, but the ripple effect, I think, is much more striking in some sin than others.
 So, where do I go from here?  Hard to say.  I am trying to be kind.  I am trying to be less harsh, less of a hammer.  But how well is that working?  I don’t know, and I am still so conflicted.  In issues where it is so clear to me, how do I let it go?  How do I show love when I think a slap is more appropriate?  It’s not enough to say that God didn’t treat me like that, or any other similar platitude.  I know these things in my head.  but I am far more a “soldier” than a “diplomat.”  God help me!  I just don’t know how to spare the sword and offer a hand.
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9 thoughts on “Oh, I am REAL good at right and wrong. But nicey-nice? Uh…

  1. Bob Klecan on said:

    Good post Clark! I love that you are so eagerly grappling with this.

  2. Well, I don’t know if “eagerly” is the right word. Maybe “willingly?” Laughing.

  3. Hi, Clark.
    Here’s a little suggestion….it helps me sort-out this problem….maybe it will be helpful to you, too.
    The Church must hold a firm line on doctrine, corporately stating right/wrong and Truth.
    We, as individuals in relationship, are effective to state the doctrine, tell the Truth, and then let it go and relate to the other with grace. Only the Holy Spirit can break through and reveal the Truth to the other, and we improve His action as we listen to the other, secure that we get it, and that they may get it too, given time.
    We are not responsible for saving them, but we are responsible for loving them, which requires our death (figuratively, usually, thankfully). God knows we are right, that we shared Truth, and so we can relax…

  4. Good words, JB. This is not my natural tendancy, so I have to fight against the “but I’m telling the truth!” part, and like you said, just relax. A work in progress…

    • You’re in large company….we all have a religious bent, which the devil nurtures – after all, he helped Adam and Eve get ahold of the knowledge of good and evil, and we’re pretty good at applying it to the other guy.
      My preacher’s best sermon was about the two trees: that one, and the tree of life. They represent the Laaw and the Spirit…one gives death, the other life.
      We live under the Tree of Life, by God’s grace, and offer healing leaves.
      That’s our new nature!
      You’re cool.

  5. John Lutz on said:

    Is it just me or do we tend to be “truth-heavy” when it comes to other people but when it comes to how God deals with us, we want him to be “grace heavy”?

  6. Fair question. And honestly, probably accurate. After all, when we look at our, uh, “mistakes” or “missteps,” they clearly aren’t as ugly and horrible as someone else’s “sins.” Maybe it’s not just me that struggles with this, but trust me, I am wrestling with it, and trying to be more God-like in grace than heavy handed. Gracias, mi hermano.

  7. Michael Long on said:

    Clark Wrote:

    ‘I think I have two issues here. First, quite honestly, I get tired of taking it. I get frustrated with people taking foolish or just plain wrong positions, and acting like they are morally or intellectually superior to me. Makes me nutty. The example I gave Beth was, so if someone says, “You know what, I don’t believe two plus two equals four. I believe it equals five,” the response I want to give is, ”Idiot, NO IT DOESN’T, AND YOU ARE DEMONSTRATABLY WRONG!!!” But I’m supposed to say, “Well, that’s interesting. How do you come to that conclusion?” That is hard for me. Second, I really struggle with this: Who is really served by soft-pedalling the truth? I’m just not sure. I know I am harsh, but I struggle with being “squishy” when “capital-T” Truth is being discussed.’

    I don’t see an inconsistency between standing up for truth and being friendly; after you ask how they come to that conclusion, hopefully you’ll have the chance to stand up for truth if their reasoning is bad or if one or more of their premises are demonstrably false or questionable. I’m with J.S. Mill: if someone is really going to appreciate the truth, they need to see WHY it is true.

    Really enjoyed our conversation the other day, btw. Hope we can do it again soon!

    • Michael, you are correct, there is no inconsistency. However, that is not my “natural bent.” I am much more comfortable as a sledgehammer, pounding other opinions into find powder and watching them blow away in the breeze. That does not mean I am correct for that, and this is one of the things I am working on; being a” kinder and gentler” me.

      I also really enjoyed the other evening! VERY fun, great conversation, and excellent beer. Yes, lets definitely do that again.

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