Tag Archive: truth in love


rebuke

This week has been a little fighty fighty on the Facebook and i’m not sure why.

i strongly suspect it is linked to the Rugby World Cup that has been happening as touching on that ‘holy grail’ in a country so passionate about the sport definitely touches a nerve. As does most conversation about race.

So in the midst of three days of more ‘taking people on’ than i am typically used to, i had someone post on my wall that he was “troubled by the fact that you have an opinion about everyone and everything” and concerned about something i’d called someone and suggesting i was not being consistent in my beliefs and actions.

Which hurt me a little bit?

WHAT? Brett ‘Fish’ Anderson hurt by something someone said? Well… you know… there’s a difference between ‘Not caring what people think’ and ‘Not caring what people think’.

i think everyone likes to be liked by people. And so when there is a moment of that not happening, it bums us out. Or maybe that’s just me, but there is definitely a moment of: ‘Oh no, someone doesn’t like me’.

When a second person jumped on the first person’s comment to back him up on the fact that i do have rather a lot to say on Facebook and i could be less rude, that didn’t help. [Although we did manage to talk it out and come to a bit more of a happy ending i believe].

WHAT TO DO WITH IT

i’m okay though. i didn’t cry myself to sleep. She may have turned me into a newt, but… i got better! [obscure but brilliant Monty Python reference]

There are a couple of things i feel might be worth mentioning around this, especially for people who constantly challenge and question and wrestle and invite others to do the same: There will be pushback. Not all of that pushback is going to be good or accurate or helpful. But not all of it is going to be bad. Some of it might even be a little bit of both.

So what do you do? Well there is this amazing line in one of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian church where he talks about ‘Testing the spirits. Holding on to the good and avoiding every kind of evil.’ Which is excellent advice.

Was what was said about me true? Was it totally true or was there any truth in there? If so, pay attention to it, learn and move on. [Maybe thank the person for pointing it out!]

If it’s not true at all, then let it go. i was talking to tbV about it in the car a little later and she reminded me about some things some other people had been saying to me recently which were helpful and true. They helped me to put both of these things in perspective.

INVITE ACCOUNTABILITY CAREFULLY

One thing that was interesting was that both comments on this particular thread came from people i don’t think i’ve had any interaction with for years. Which doesn’t mean what they said was not true. But it does suggest that there is a lack of relationship and so i hold it a little more loosely than when my good buddy Bruce Collins challenged me on a stance i was taking on Facebook a few weeks ago and warned me that he thought i had crossed a line.

You see, i have invited Bruce to speak into my life. i have no doubt that he loves me and he has championed me and encouraged me and cheered when i have done well and loved me so much that when he questions something, it still hurts [who likes to be told they are wrong?] but i know it can be trusted. i won’t necessarily always agree with him either [because we’re different people although we definitely agree on more than we disagree on] but i will listen and really dig deeply into what i said and question it because i know it was spoken in love.

truth

i imagine everyone’s process works differently. But the way it typically works for me is that if someone challenges me i will probably give immediate reaction push-back, but i will go and think about it later and it might take a day or two for me to process and realise, ‘Oh wait, actually they were right’ which means having to go back, tail between my legs and apologise to them and thank them for challenging me. But it happens.

And you don’t have to have good relationship with me to hold me accountable. i expect and invite everyone to hold me accountable for everything i say and do – i realise i live a bit of a public life and so that is completely necessary. But then there are certain people who i love and trust and have no doubt they love and trust me who i have invited to jump in when they see me out of line and bring rebuke and caution and challenge and so i am more likely to listen to them more easily and quickly than someone who is not.

Which makes a lot of sense. Because as i mentioned before, i am speaking/writing/sharing a lot about Race and Reconciliation and Christianity and Relationships and more and some of these topics get pretty heated. It would not be wise to agree with everything said to me in response to conversations had around those topics. But it is good to have some trustworthy people specifically watching my back on these to help keep me in line.

i am so grateful that my pool of people i trust to speak this kind of Truth in Love into my life is so huge. It is not easy being the person who brings the caution/challenge/rebuke as it is not easy being the person who receives it. But it is so crucially important and necessary to ensure a life that is consistent with beliefs, that will hopefully be used to be a part of significant conversation and action.

What has your experience with accountability been? Giving it or receiving it? Who are the people who you have invited to speak Truth in Love when it counts? 

[For some other thoughts on Friendship, click here]

audience

i have a gift. i call it the gift of small audience.

There was a time in Cape Town a few years ago when i was one of the 5 or 6 speakers youth groups and Christian school groups would call on for talks and camps and it felt really good – like i had huge opportunity to make a difference – to impact hundreds of young people across Cape Town and beyond as the opportunities came.

At the same time i was running a youth group that consisted of maybe 1 to 8 people. Who mostly just stared at me a lot.

That didn’t always feel that good… or that successful at least. Something along the lines of “a prophet is unwelcome in his own town” or something like that which you cling to when things don’t look at that successful. [Maybe you’re just really bad at running youth groups? Nah, sh! It can’t be that.]

Picture of prophet

When you live in a world and system which judges success in one way [usually numbers, big events, wide reach, that kind of thing] and you see life happening in another way, you suddenly end up as lonely contemplative prophet sitting under a tree by yourself wondering where all the crowds are.

You know someone else who had a small audience? Jesus. That’s right. Oh sure he pulled in the crowds when He was multiplying bread and fish, turning water into exquisite wine and raising the dead… but when He started talking about His Kingdom and what it meant to be a follower… suddenly, crickets.

NO, I’M NOT SAYING I’M JESUS [just so we’re clear]

When the Kingdom message became one of enemy love… or when Jesus spoke about denying yourself, taking up your cross every day and following someone who is not you… when the stories were about the hated Samaritans being the example of Love well demonstrated or about everyone hating you because of Me or selling everything you have and giving it to the poor and then following… well then the crowds started to thin. Drastically.

And when Jesus was arrested and being associated with Him might mean joining Him in the crucifixion, well even His closest friends were nowhere to be seen [those that weren’t denying they knew Him at all]

‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.’

[Romans 12.2-3]

Just yesterday i was listening to someone give a talk to a group of media people. He knew my parents well, but i didn’t even know if he knew me or not. Suddenly, in the middle of his talk, he mentioned my name  and said some really encouraging stuff about some stuff i had been writing/saying in the nineties. i was blown away.

The immense power of words of encouragement or affirmation from an unlikely source. “Just keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t worry about the response.”

hemustbecomegreateriless1.jpg

Truth in Love. That is what we are called to. And it is such a delicate balance to get right. To be fair, through my life i have probably erred on the side of Truth more often than Love, although i think a do a lot better these days. A lot of other people tend to err on the side of something that is mistaken for Love which might look like reassurance or comfortability or compromise or a number of other things.

i’m not sure what i’m trying to say here. i certainly am not fishing for a bunch of people to jump on and tell me how well i’m doing at life so please don’t do that. i do want us to be aware of how powerful positive words and affirmation can be in the lives of those around us and so where there are other people you know who maybe speak a Truth in Love that is not popular or well received, please find moments to appreciate them and quietly cheer them on.

i also want to encourage you if you are someone who is desperately seeking the Truth of life and following Jesus, but feels like you’re swimming against the current, to keep going. Don’t compare yourself to the people around you – compare yourself to the Truth Jesus taught and lived and called us to. If it doesn’t involve denying yourself and choosing to die daily to self and actively follow Him, then it’s probably not Truth.

While i believe the majority of people are on the wrong path [read Matthew 7, it’s something i feel Jesus believed as well] i am well encouraged by the so many people i know in Cape Town, around South Africa and all over the world, who are genuinely wrestling with Truth and actively trying to follow Jesus in ways that cost them time and money and reputation and make things harder and uncomfortable and confusing and messy.

God sees you. 

He knows you.

Don’t give up.

Forget looking for the signs that the world holds up of success. But listen for the sounds of the Kingdom. On earth as it is in heaven.

Be aware of those who are hungry and thirsty and lonely and in prison and in danger and marginalised and Love them as best you can.

Always remember that it is always about Love – that is the greatest commandment.

Where a prophet comes in, i think, is when there is a need for someone to look at the way things are presently in the world [and in the church] and come to the conclusion that, “This Does Not Look Like Love” and “What Are We Going To Do About It?” 

Well? What are you presently doing about it? With your time, with your money, with your life in general?

Run strong, my friend, and swim against the tide…

fish

pearlsbeforelove

This right-on-the-button cartoon slash life commentary by Stephan Pastis’ gang on my favourite Pearls Before Swine strip and this one could be titled ‘The introduction of blogging’ [or Twitter] but in all honesty, to fully understand the depth of meaning of it, find any issue piece someone has written [on rape culture or a specific interpretation of the bible, on homosexuality or race for sure] and scroll down to the comments section where people let all their “honesty” hang out.

It’s no wonder we refer to them as ‘internet trolls’ [no offence to actual trolls] as there seem to be so many people who hide under their specific bridge [most trolls seem to pick a specific theme and scurry around the internet looking for posts related to it before diving in headfirst] and wait for an unsuspecting person to come along and make a reasonable comment before unleashing their Wolverine-type claws and venom.

And the “I’m just being honest” often contains the same level of subtlety as someone who starts a sentence with the words, “I’m not racist, but” before saying someone that is completely racist. “I’m not sexist but woman should stay at home and keep the house clean and the man well fed kind of stuff.” Yes, you are sexist. And now you’re also a big ass for trying to give off the impression that you’re not.

The ‘Get out of jail free’ card for insults only works for the conscience of the person who has just been doing the insulting and perhaps adds to the misery of the person receiving it, because not only have they just heard a bunch of stuff that makes them feel bad, but they have also had the tag on reminder that “it is all the truth.”

This book I’ve been reading [for ever!] has something to say about that:

14 ‘Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love,we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ [The Bible, Ephesians 4]

The heart of that scripture is the phrase “speaking the truth in love” which Rat is clearly getting wrong in the cartoon strip. But it starts with the premise of “If you get this right, then you are no longer acting like a spoilt and scheming child.” And continues on to show that if we can get this right, then the whole body [all of the people involved] will grow together in a good and healthy way.

I really enjoyed what Don Miller had to say in his blog a couple of days ago about his active decision to be a “lover and not a fighter” on the internet.

He highlights what this can look like with regards to christians here:

‘In my most negative moments, I think that the internet is a lot like cable news: yelling and drawing lines in the sand, drumming up controversy for the sake of ratings. There are a lot of bloggers who jump on every single slightly controversial aspect of Christian culture and church life.’

And gives what I think is a very healthy resolution for them when he writes: ‘You won’t find me taking shots at this or that public person ever, not because I don’t have strong opinions—I do, and anyone who knows me well knows that there’s no shortage of those strong opinions…but that’s the point: I share those strong opinions in the context of relationship, because I think that’s the healthiest place for them to be. And because I always think to myself, what if that person has a daughter?’

And Don has some harsh critics so I can’t imagine it is easy for him. But [although we do probably think a little differently on if and when to speak out about someone, because I do think there are times when it is necessary as Jesus did with the Pharisees and Paul did with Peter on occasion] I really like the solution he offers in terms of how he tries to use his online presence:

‘What I do know is that as far as the interwebs are concerned, I’m on the lookout for good—things that are beautiful and wise and helpful, things that connect us, books I think you should read, meals I think you could serve to the people you love.’

[and you can read the whole post Donald Miller wrote on this over here]  

So next time you are thinking about “just being honest” by pointing out a friend’s [or a stranger’s] flaws, try and remember the Truth in Love proviso and if it can’t be done in Love, then maybe you should just keep hold of that piece of “Truth” until such time as it can.

Stop being a Rat!

‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ [Ephesians 4.11-16]

that is a rather long passage, but i do generally like to give context for a verse i want to use and i felt like this whole passage sums up this part of the message that i want to take from the anonymous email i received a week ago.

so this is the portion of the email i am going to be looking at now:

‘Brett-boy, you need to rethink how you spend your energy.
And here I’m speaking in particular about the humor side of your energy. To take an example: Brett, let’s be honest: your youtube videos suck. Big time. And I don’t even see the purpose in it. Will you really stand before the Jesus one day and when He asks you “So how did you spend your valuable time?” answer “Well, there are these youtube videos I made.”’

this is both a simple concept and a difficult one to get right [perhaps these are all so easy for me to blog about as i have lots of experience in the getting-it-wrong department in days gone by] but the idea mentioned in the Ephesians passage is of ‘speaking the truth in love’ with the intended purpose being that ‘we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’

this point seems to almost precede the point of the message. a question one needs to ask when challenging someone else about something is, ‘Am I right? Is this thing, that I am about to speak to that person, the Truth?’ Once I have ascertained that I am speaking Truth to them, it seems to be so very important that I get the ‘in Love’ part of the delivery of my message right, otherwise to some extent the Truth is invalidated. Was it Truthful? Yes. Did I speak it in Love? No, well then the whole message is lost!

truth-in-love-300x270

Why is this so important? Well Jesus has set it out for us so clearly: When asked what the greatest commandment in the law is, ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22.37-40]

so the end point is always Love. and until i can get that part right, then it might be better for me to hold my tongue. the Ephesians passage reminds us that the intended consequence of speaking the Truth in Love is that the whole body will be built up and so that each person will be able to do the job required of them. this is vital, crucial stuff here.

i really believe that one of the largest travesties of the church for so long has been that those who ‘get the Truth’ and speak it, so often don’t have the Love to accompany it, and so much damage is done. but it goes further than that because i also strongly believe that too often those who ‘get the Love’ part of the Gospel, so often refrain from speaking the Truth. and damage is done both ways. we confuse ‘being Love-filled’ with not challenging people or confronting sin when it needs to happen [but in Love]. we mistake ‘being nice’ with ‘being Loving’ and that too can have terrible consequences.

BRINGING IT BACK TO WHAT IT’S ABOUT

so if my anonymous friend was wanting to do a better thing, how could that have happened?

to me, ‘Brett-boy’ sounds very condescending – that might not have been intended, but simply using ‘Brett’ would have done the trick.

‘let’s be honest – your videos suck’ could have perhaps been a more personal ‘i must be honest, i don’t really think your videos are all that great’ which at least removes some of the sting and personalises the opinion instead of proclaiming a statement of truth.

and i have already spoken a little bit into ‘And I don’t even see the purpose in it’ which could have been posted as a question such as,’I’d be interested to hear the reason behind why you make these videos?’

are any of these hugely malicious things? not at all – but out there in the world, and sadly too often in the church, there are examples that happen all the time that are way more hurtful and display a complete lack of Love and it is those that i am wanting to speak into.

the writer to the Corinthians didn’t seem to think Truth counted all that much [or anything else for that matter] if Love was not a huge part of the message both in word and deed:

‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ [1 Corinthians 13.1-3]

having hard Truth spoken to you in Love doesn’t always mean it is easy to hear. but it definitely becomes a lot easier to hear and if i walk away from you completely convinced that you Love me, then i am so much more likely to take some more time in considering the words of Truth you have spoken to me, even if i did not receive them well in the moment.

what’s your experience been in hearing hard Truth from people spoken in Love?
and i suppose the more painful question of, is this ringing any bell for you of times when you may have spoken well-meaning Truth but with a lack of the much-needed Love?

[to read on about receiving the rebuke you send click here]

my good buddy rob lloyd just got me a new bible because my old one was literally falling apart and i like the idea of starting again in a sense – rediscovering old favourite passages, underlining new ones, breaking the bible in so to speak…

and as i sat and thought where to begin i decided to start with the psalms, and i don’t know that i will necessarily read one per day but i am going to start today and see how it goes and i thought it might be nice to bring other people with me, or maybe you were looking for a new place to read and want to read along with me – i am going to read a psalm and write a comment or a thought or reflection and would love it if you wanted to write yours in the comments below so together we can learn from what God is saying to us as we take this journey…

so today, starting with psalm 1, what jumps out at you? what don’t you understand? what has God whispered as you read it? what is one idea you just really enjoyed? i would love to hear what you got out of it…

this is a great psalm – first thing that jumped out at me was line 1 ‘blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked’ – and to be honest i think i always read that as ‘council’ as in meeting-place or gathering, instead of counsel which surely means ‘being advised/counselled by’ which changes it completely… complete tie-in to one of my favourite proverbs ‘wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses’ [27.6] or ‘they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear’ [2 Timothy 4.3] and a reminder that even though it might look strongly appealing to have yes-people around us, it will be a blessing and better life choice to not live life being advised/counselled by these people but rather people who will speak truth in love.

and then verse 3 which talks about being ‘planted by streams of water’ – the result being that whatever you do will prosper – echoes of being firmly rooted like in the story of the house built on the rock [Matthew 7.24] or the need to be in constant connection to the vine which is God [John 15] and how as a result the fruit will naturally happen – not so much by work or effort but by inviting God to work it through you as you stay holding on to Him.

so that’s a good start to this journey – the reminder that as a Christ follower my number one focus must be on being nourished by my Father in heaven and that i should look to surround myself with people [at least in terms of those who advise/bring counsel to me] who actively follow Christ and will unashamedly speak truth in love to me [even if sometimes that might be hard for me to receive]

[To continue to Psalm 2, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

why is this stuff important? i don’t think this is about arisefest and my blog – not anymore, that was just a catalyst to a lot of in depth thinking about a crucial topic which i feel is hugely lacking in the church…

[was i right in wot i wrote about arisefest? i’m not sure, perhaps not – the one principle that was intentional though was mentioning names of some of the bands i was super amped with (so that those who were not there could still hear some praise of some of the individuals and groups who got it right – there were many more) and not mentioning names of bands/individuals who i thort maybe got it wrong (so that those who were not there didn’t get a gossip feed on something that didn’t concern them) – however, for those who were at the fest it was obvious as to two of the individuals i was referring to and that is consistent with my thorts on the public behaviour vibe (i do think it would have been a lot more fair on the mc guy to speak more in depth with him as opposed to the quick rebuke i gave to him in person – i have been trying to track him down to do so, but as of yet no-one has given me his name) and dealing with it…]

the principle i do want to look at is accountability – most people really don’t dig confrontation (maybe all people, altho i have met some do who seem to rather like it) in any shape or form and so just don’t do it at all – and so when our friends are caught up in sin (which is always going to be destructive – to them and probably those around them, at some time or other) we look the other way, because dealing with it will be awkward.

and it will. but it is necessary. and if the friends and family of people started taking more responsibility and ownership in the area of accountability/Truth-in-Love speaking/correction then it would not be left to third parties to feel the need/pressure to take it on themselves. and if it comes from friends/family then it is way more likely to be received well and effective because there is relationship there already…

proverbs 27.6 “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” – that is an incredible verse and an amazing principle – if someone who is a good friend to me calls me on something/challenges in love/gently rebukes then it will still be a wound (no-one likes to know or hear they are wrong ever, it is the pride in us) BUT if it is from a friend then i know it can be trusted because i know they love me and want my good – an enemy on the other hand will look the other way and allow me to continue with behaviour or habits that will ultimately hurt me much more deeply or else even applaud me in the wrongdoing – they may think they are being my friend because they are not making me feel bad now, but ultimately their actions prove them to be an enemy because as the sin/habit increases so it will later take me down…

the Love of the “does anyone condemn you, no? well neither do I?” must be balanced by the Truth of the “go and sin no more”

if we can get this right, we will transform the church… and then the world…

so my arisefest blog got quite a few people heated in terms of the manner in which i dealt with some of the frustrations i had concerning my arisefest experience (which for the most part was a completely incredible experience – the people who missed the point certainly didn’t spoil it for me or anyone else i doubt) and some of the behaviours i witnessed…

[what was an interesting phenomenon was how quickly the issues were dropped/ignored in the interest of arguing about how they were dealt with – a less interesting phenomenon was how significant my spelling of the word ‘thought’ as ‘thort’ became in people’s judgement of me… hm?]

anyways, all that aside, it got me thinking a lot about how we should challenge people and hold them accountable when they appearingly step out of line and the common thort is that we should gently pull them aside and caution/rebuke them. correct?

you know, like Jesus taught in matthew 19.15-17 which starts off, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ and so on.

that does feel like the correct response, but is it the same thing we’re talking about?

it talks about ‘your brother sins against you’ whereas what i was speaking into was a situation with various people/groups sinning publically as opposed to just against me – how did Jesus respond to that?


continue to part ii here

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