“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” ― Flannery O’Connor
During the past few weeks I have been working with my BGCO staff to develop their management skills. In particular we have been working on being able to see AND acknowledge the truth. That a manager has to be able to honestly assess the situation and the people involved before they can come up with the best solution.
It is not always easy to do that, especially with the people we care about. The Brandon Burlsworth Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding Division I FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on. Brandon was an inspiring Christian young man who went from walk-on to All American at the University of Arkansas. In the movie “Greater”, which was written about his life, we see an overweight young boy who had just been baptized telling his mom “They said I’m fat”. She replies “No you’re not fat; you’re just a big old boy, and God made you just the way you are for a reason.”
Truth is always truth regardless of what we want it to be. In this case Brandon was both a big old boy and he was fat. It was not until he was at the University of Arkansas, basically functioning as a tackling dummy that he finally came to terms with his physical condition and became the big old boy he was supposed to be instead of being a big old fat boy.
But all good decisions have to begin with Truth. Seeing it and acknowledging it. Brandon does that with the help of his coach at Arkansas. Truth is the frame of the house and the skeleton of our bodies. Without truth the building collapses and our bodies cannot stand. Before the COVID outbreak we were looking at some foundational Truths based upon God’s Law. That when anyone applies the Ten Commandments to our lives our lives will be better. That coveting and stealing and murdering and all the others will inevitably lead to bitterness and misery between us and God, and with each other. This is where part two comes in. A Bible verse I could never quite completely figure out. How does “The Law” work?
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. (Romans 7:7-11)
The Law is Truth, it is a gift from God to provide us the framework for living with God and with each other. But Paul also said that without the Law he would not know what sin was and that “once I was alive apart from sin” What does that mean? Does that mean that those who do not know the Law are not judged? Here is where we have to remember that reading specific verses does not allow us to understand. We have to rely on all of scripture. Paul also said this:
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) (Romans 2:12-15)
God has written the requirements of the law on everyone’s heart. We do have the Truth; He has made it clear to us. It is our framework for life with Him and each other. But just like Flannery O’Connor said: “Truth does not depend on our ability to stomach it”. We need more than having it, we must also acknowledge it and apply it. The problem is that only one man in all of history has been able to do that, and that man is Jesus Christ. Despite our knowledge of the Law either through the Scriptures or from having it written on our hearts we stand accused because we have ALL broken the law.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
Our loving God knows that we will fail in keeping His law. He knows that having the law does not fix the problem and so in His loving Mercy He provided another solution to the problem of our disobedience.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus came to make it right. He came and lived and died and rose again so that we might become righteous in God’s eyes. But the Father does not see through rose colored glasses. He still sees the truth. He knows that we are all sinners and that we cannot be without sin.
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood… (Romans 3:20-25)
For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ we are no longer bound by not measuring up. The Law is more than a measuring stick for us. It is also a path for our lives. Jesus has freed us from not measuring up. But that does not mean we should give up abiding by and applying God’s Laws to our lives. It actually means we should try harder to apply them.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:6-11)
I must ask myself am I still allowing myself to be a prisoner of Sin. As managers, as friends, as parents, as children, as siblings, as followers of Christ, we must be able to see and admit the Truth and the Law. If I do not I can never help myself or those around me to be freed from the prison of Sin. I can never help myself or those around me to live a victorious life of peace and joy. I can never be who He has called me to be.
How about you?