John"s gospel describes Jesus as displaying the glory of God the Father by being "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In his short book, Humble Orthodoxy, Joshua Harris offers helpful instruction in our pursuit of these qualities as followers of Jesus Christ. Our human tendency is to focus on one to the exclusion of the other. However, we must view these as equally valuable virtues to be constantly held in tension. Harris admits: "There is a fine line between contending for the truth and being contentious."
In our culture that is set on challenging many of the foundational truths of the Scriptures, Harris insightfully lists some of the wrong reactions. Some christians, "Driven by a desire to reach lost people, cross the line from trying to reach our culture and start trying to impress our culture." When this becomes one's motivation, "Very quickly all that God has to say becomes, instead of precious truth, a hinderance. The christians who go this way become slaves to the trends, values and ideals of a spiritually lost culture."
The other extreme that other christians adopt is that "They turn their back on culture altogether. They lock themselves in their little christian sub-culture, move into their little christian ghetto and make their focus impressing people within their little christian clique. They might love truth, but to them truth isn't about God changing lost people, it's about them proving themselves right on any given issue." The biblical stance in relation to truth is not about trying to please people, rather, it's about seeking the approval of God (2 Timothy 2:15). When our motivation for living becomes what people think of about us, then we are in danger of being pulled to either extreme regarding how we handle truth.
The recent banning of Phil Robertson by A&E from the popular TV program Duck Dynasty, has stimulated a strong response from the christian community. I am troubled by a christian perspective that is surpised by opposition to truth and responds with a demanding attitude that a christian should have the freedom to say what he believes without being rejected. This sense of entitlement is foreign to the teachings of our Lord who said those who would follow him must deny themselves and take up his cross (Matthew 16:24). Further, he invited us to, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." (Matthew 11:29).
Harris challenges us with some probing questions: "Are we giving as much energy to obeying and being reformed by God's word personally as we are to criticizing its detractors? . . . As we lose the esteem of our culture, as we see false teachers gain ground, what will we do? Will we grow bitter, angry and vengeful? Or, like Jesus, will we continue to love our enemies even as we suffer? Will we keep praying? Will we keep praying for God to open others' eyes?"
I highly recommend this short book to all who seek to be like Jesus by embracing the truth while living humbly. It can be read through in a few hours and concludes with a study guide for individuals or groups who desire further relflection and application. I am thankful to my pastors who passed it along to me.