"Jesus responded, 'Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.' 'What is truth?' Pilate asked" (John 18:37,38).
Today we are forced to echo Pilate's question to Jesus on so many subjects. What is the truth? Who knows the truth? Who's telling the truth? If my truth doesn't line up with Jesus and His Word, then the best I can achieve is "truthiness," a term a late-night host coined for the way politicians present their version of the facts. All of us practice truthiness to some degree because we see things from our own limited perspective, like people looking at a mountain from different angles. If I insist that my angle is the only valid and true one, I'm missing half or more of the truth. I could be perceived as lying by those looking at another view of the same mountain.
We are in a difficult season for the church in America where we can't seem to reconcile our different views of the mountain of diversity in unity. Each of us has our own viewpoint based on tradition, ethnicity, theology and politics. And each one is convinced that their view of the mountain is the true one — or at least the most important one. For those of us who are committed to sharing the often overlooked or ignored truth of our African, Asian, Latino and Native American brothers and sisters, it can be hard to see and understand why our Anglo brothers and sisters would be overwhelmed and even offended by our insistence on emphasizing painful parts of our history and experiences. Anglo Christians may find it hard to understand why believers of color struggle to see the accomplishments and honor of American history as untarnished. We are looking at different sides of the mountain.
|"If everybody leads with their need, nobody gets heard."||This conflict of viewpoints where various groups are looking through the prism of their own sense of identity — cultural, ethnic/racial and other factors — shows opposing views of what the main identity of Christians should be. The group containing mostly people of color has a tremendous need to be heard and to have their experiences validated. The group containing mostly white people has a great need not to feel accused, condemned or to have their sense of values and traditions questioned. If everybody leads with their need, nobody gets heard.|
There is a culture and identity that takes precedence over all others. As disciples of Christ, we belong to the Kingdom of God, and it demands our first and best allegiance. Christ is first, preeminent, in everything (Colossians 1:18)! That does not mean we ignore or deny the things that make up our identities as a person. God is the author of tribes and tongues, peoples and nations (Revelation 5:9). But as a Christian, our first identity is in Christ, our Creator, Savior and Lord. So the challenge becomes how to live out and tell the truth as a Kingdom citizen in the church and the world as outlined in Matthew 5.
When Paul tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14,15), he is referring to the gospel and biblical truth. He's not saying to weaponize it against other believers, insisting that I'm right so you have to listen, but rather to present it in a sincere attitude of love for the hearer so they can receive it. No follower of Christ should feel forced to think or feel a certain way.
Follow the example of Christ by laying down the things we may look to for security and pride: racial/ethnic identities, history and tradition, political allegiance. Jesus laid down all the rights of the Prince of Heaven and became a slave of slaves. Paul laid aside his Jewish heritage in order to serve Christ more fully (Philippians 2-3).
Try not to "lead with your need." Give preference to the other person. Take a genuine interest in them and their point of view. It's often said the best way to learn is to listen (Philippians 2:1-3).
Make an appeal, not an argument. Give up your right to be right. Exercise godly wisdom which is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield and be reasoned with (James 3:13-18).
Remember, no one I can see is my enemy. Satan is the enemy, not the person I disagree with. Instead, pray for them, seek ways to bless them. Don't seek revenge or retaliate, love them to repentance (Matthew 5, Romans 12).
Cultivate the qualities of a Kingdom citizen — desperate dependence on God, humility, sorrow over sin and suffering, mercy and meekness, hunger and thirst for God's justice (Matthew 5). See what a difference it makes in your understanding of what's true.
I hope we can all agree on this truth: we must stay true to our pure, simple, sincere and undivided devotion to Christ and to His call on our lives to fulfill the Great Commission and build God's Kingdom on earth. All of these other issues, as urgent and important as they are, must not detour or distract us from Christ and our calling. That is true for all of us.
Michelle A. Melchor is team leader for Cru Inner City Atlanta. She has served the ministry for 46 years.
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