Pieces of Truth


A bunch of years ago, I preached a sermon from Jesus' teaching on the Good Samaritan about what it means to love your neighbor.  I mentioned in that sermon that our ideas of what constituted a neighbor were often light years away from God's. 

I went on to say that our duty as Christians was to be humble enough to recognize the image of God in everyone, and to be led by that recognition to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

At one point, I mentioned that the hundreds of thousands of undocumented people within the United States were not just numbers---they were real people with real stories, and that they were loved and cherished by God.  And they were our neighbors. 

As I stood at the door after the service greeting my parishioners as they left, two middle aged sisters who had been members of the church for some time stopped to express their outrage at what I'd said.  They told me they wouldn't be returning. 

"That was the most disgustingly liberal sermon I've ever heard," one of them said as she flounced out.  

One of the many things I've learned over my years of preaching and pastoring is that sometimes merely lifting up the example of Jesus' words and deeds is enough to drive some people out of your church.  

And this is because while the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus the Christ is meant to comfort the afflicted, more often than not it serves to afflict the comfortable.  

We don't have to look to hard to see clearly how in our current culture far too many Christians have become comfortable in their beliefs---beliefs that aren't actually grounded in Jesus' words and even less in his example. 

Fr. Anthony de Mello once told this parable: 

The devil once went for a walk

With a friend.  They saw a man 
Ahead of them stoop down and 
Pick up something from the ground. 

"What did that man find?” asked
The friend. 

“A piece of truth,” said the devil. 

“Doesn’t that disturb you?” asked the friend. 

“No,” said the devil, 
“I  shall let him make 
A belief out of it.”  

I've loved this little parable ever since I first read it, because it both chastens and encourages me.  

First, it chastens me because it reminds me that even my deeply held beliefs are not "the truth," even though they might (emphasis on might) contain a piece of it.  

And it serves as a warning as to how quickly I can take these pieces of truth, and form them into something that keeps me from actually stumbling after Jesus--- the Truth... the Way... and the Life.  

I also am encouraged by this because it reminds me that there is so much more for me to learn.  

I am unfinished.  I am incomplete.  And there is nothing in the world wrong with this no matter how hard it is for me to live in the tension between what I desire to be and what I am.  

The Apostle Paul likened this kind of space to a moment  when you are looking through a distorted glass, trying to make out the proper shape and color of things.  

If the lens we are using to see through is distorted (and it almost always is), we will undoubtedly have an incomplete view.  

But there will come a day when we will see more clearly than ever before.  It may not be in this reality, in this life...  although sometimes I think we catch glimpses of it.  

Still, we can take comfort in knowing that God loves us in our unknowing, and leads us ever closer toward knowing as we are able.  

May you live and move in this revelation, and may it bring you peace.  

May you hold loosely to those pieces of truth you find, knowing that in some way they point to the Truth, who is the Christ, the One who risked it all in order to show you what is true... and real... and forever.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 


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