Friday, October 30, 2009

being honest (finding a truth-teller)


I’d like to begin tonight by stating a paradox that describes community crashers like us. Are you ready, the paradox is this: First, we really want to know the truth about ourselves. Second, we really don’t want to know the truth about ourselves. And so when it comes to who we really are, we both seek the truth and we resist it. Exhibit A. I hold in my hand a pair of shoes that I purchased at a very reasonable price. Are they a little trendy? Maybe. A tad shiny? Perhaps. But I was captivated by these shoes; I purchased them and then proceeded to wear these shoes for 13 consecutive weeks. And I’m not going to lie – I was under the impression that everyone loved my shoes – that if any rumors were circulating, that the rumors were focused on how impressive my sense of style was. But one day the truth came out. The Lord sent a prophet, Storey Zimmerman, to tell me the truth. And her exact words will forever be etched in my mind, and I quote – “Oh my God! You’re wearing bowling shoes! Look how shiny they are. Where on earth did you buy those? I didn’t know Austin had a clown store.” End quote. Now, did I want to know the truth about these shoes? Yes and no. On the one hand, no one wants to be laughed at for wearing clown shoes. But on the other hand, the truth hurts (Storey). Now, if hearing that our sense of style needs some work is hard, how much tougher is it to hear that our character needs some work? Remember, to be a community crasher is to have serious, serious flaws – and no one likes having their flaws pointed out. Think about going to a department store and trying on clothes. Let me ask you this – do you think dressing rooms have normal mirrors? Of course not. Those stores make the lighting really dim so that you can’t see all your blemishes. They also use a “skinny mirror” – a mirror that makes you look thinner and taller than you really are. Now, do we want to see ourselves through these bogus mirrors? On the one hand, no – but at the same time, it’s flattering to think we’re in better shape than we really are. It’s nice to look at ourselves and to not see blemishes.

OK, a quick review. You and I are made for ____ (community). But by nature we are community ____ (crashers). And because we’re community crashers – because we have serious, serious flaws – that’s why we need community. And the reason we need community is because we need an accurate mirror – we need people that love us enough to tell us what they see. Because the truth is, our ability to live in denial is astounding. It’s really easy for us to see the flaws in someone else. To see their temper, or how insecure they are, or to see how much they gossip. But seeing these things in ourselves? Not as easy. It’s like we’re standing in front of that skinny mirror in a dark room. Spiritually speaking, we assume that we’re in a lot better shape than we really are.

And so before we start talking about King David, I’d like to introduce a term. And that term is “truth-teller.” The reason we need community, the reason we need each other, is because God calls us to be “truth-tellers” for one another. To quote Ephesians 4:15, our call is to “speak the truth in love.” You see, we all have blind spots, weak spots, and blemishes that we can’t see on our own. And we need each other to see them. We need other people to remind us of our deepest aspirations and values and to warn us when we’re getting off track. We need people who love us enough to question our motives and to ask us hard questions. In other words, we all need a few truth-tellers in our lives. Now, in the context of our story, the Israelites have entered the Promised Land and they are now a united nation of people – in other words, they’re no longer a ragtag group of nomadic, desert-dwelling, run-away slaves – they are a people. A nation. And like all nations, they have a king. And so tonight we hear about David – Israel’s 2nd king – and the Bible describes David as a man after God’s own heart. And to give you some background info, David is a good looking guy. He’s powerful. He’s an acclaimed warrior, a musician, and a poet. In other words, David’s got the goods. He can have any woman that he wants. And he knows it. In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David dispatched Joab and his fighting men of Israel in full force to destroy the Ammonites for good. David stayed in Jerusalem. One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was stunningly beautiful. David sent to ask about her, and was told, "Isn't this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent his agents to get her. After she arrived, he went to bed with her. Then she returned home. Before long she realized she was pregnant. Later she sent word to David: "I'm pregnant." (2 Sam 11: 1-5) Ok, and so we’re told that one year fighting season rolls around – apparently, it’s just that time of the year when armies fight and when kings go off to war. And this year, we’re told that David decides to stay home. Back in the day, Kings use to fight with their people. But this year, David starts thinking to himself – “I don’t really want to fight with my men this year. I’d rather hang out here in the palace, eat pizza and play video games. And so I think I’ll stay home.” Now, something weird is going on here. David has been the king for a while now, he’s getting older, women don’t look at him quite like they used to. There’s a good chance David is going through a mid-life crises.

Well, one day David wakes up from a nap – he’s restless and lonely and probably a little bored. And he sees this woman bathing from his roof. And David thinks she’s kind of hot. To quote our reading, she is “stunningly beautiful.” And so David sends someone to do a background check, and actually gets a little push back. “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” In other words, what the servant is saying to David is this: David, this is someone’s daughter, and someone’s wife. You need to be careful here.” Now, if David were in a good place with God right now, this statement would have stopped him in his tracks. But David isn’t too interested in hearing the truth right now. And so what does David do? Remember, he’s the most powerful man in Israel. He sends for her, sleeps with her, and then kicks her out of the palace. A real gentleman, that David. Anyway, a little time passes, David forgets about Bathsheba, but then one day the doorbell rings. It’s Bathsheba and she’s holding a pregnancy test – 2 pink lines. “David,” she says, “I’m pregnant.” David’s in a bit of a pickle here, right? He knocks up Bathsheba while her husband – Uriah – is off fighting to keep David safe in his palace. What does David do – does he …

A)Confess his sins to the people and ask God for forgiveness
B)Confess his sins to Uriah and ask Bathsheba for forgiveness
C)Both A and B
D)Send Uriah to the front lines of the war to make sure that he gets killed

The answer is D. And after Uriah is dead he marries Bathsheba and nine months later they have a little baby boy.

Now, David thinks he’s got everything under control because he assumes that the great danger is that someone will find out. But he’s wrong. The great danger isn’t that someone will find out – it’s that no one will find out. How long does David live in hypocrisy? How long does he act like some righteous king – pretending to worship, leading the people – while inside he carries the secret guilt of murder and adultery? We don’t know exactly, but the Bible tells us that at least until his son was born. And so for at least nine months David lies to his own people and to Bathsheba about what really happened to her husband. And pretty soon he starts lying to himself. And every day David gets a little bit more used to the deception. Every day his heart gets a little harder, every day he moves a little further away from God. That’s the truth. But does David know the truth about himself? No.

Let’s be honest – David made some mistakes. Think about it – he stalked a woman while she was bathing. That’s creepy. He then leveraged his power to have sex with her, which never works out well for anyone. And then, when she gets pregnant, he has her husband killed so that no one finds out. But here’s what’s interesting – behind each of these sins was a temptation. And each time David tried to handle the temptation on his own. And what I want to say tonight is that this is the fatal mistake of community crashers like ourselves – not that we’re tempted, not that we sin, but that we try, by ourselves, to keep everything under control; that we try and cover our tracks so that no one finds out; that we’re too embarrassed or ashamed to tell another person that we’re struggling – as if being depressed or anxious or scared or horny or lonely or insecure or having doubts were something that no one else could relate to - like it’s such a weird thing to feel these emotions, that it’s so uncommon, that no one else can know. It is a fatal tendency of community crashers like ourselves to think that we can handle temptation on our own, and it’s been going on since the Garden of Eden. When the serpent tempted Eve, think about what she didn’t do – she didn’t talk about her temptation with Adam. And she definitely didn’t discuss it with God. And so when that snake started talking to her, she tried to tame it on her own and because she couldn’t she gave in. And when that snake started talking to David he tried to tame it on his own and because he couldn’t he gave in. Now, I know that snake talks to all of us – I know it. The question is – what do we do?

A pretty good sign that we’re in trouble with temptation is if we’re too scared to tell someone else. Because over time, we give in to that snake. And in giving in, we get comfortable. But to remain comfortable, we have to lie – not just to others, but to ourselves. We have to convince ourselves that we’re not really doing anything wrong. I promise you this – that’s what happened to David. When it came to his own blemishes and sins and the choices he made and how he dealt with the consequences of those choices, David got used to hiding the truth from others. But in living a lie, he forgot the truth about himself.

And so what does God do? He sends a truth-teller by the name of Nathan. You see, Nathan’s a prophet and so he knows what David did. And so Nathan tells David a story about a desperately poor man whose entire life revolves around this one, little sheep, which is the poor man’s treasured possession. But a rich, powerful man – who has a lot of sheep – steals the poor man’s sheep just for fun. And when David hears this story he is pissed off – he is indignant! “This man deserves to die” David says! “And as the king I’m going to order his execution.” Who is this man?

And so Nathan looks straight in the eyes of the most powerful man in the world and says – David, you are the man. Bathsheba was Uriah’s one little sheep and you killed him to take it. This is your story. This is your sin. This is the depth to which you have fallen. David, the truth is, you are the man.

Now thankfully, David repents. But I don’t think David would have done that if someone hadn’t told him the truth. And in my experience, this kind of truth-telling is rare. And the reason telling the truth is rare is because it takes enormous courage. Because if we speak the truth to someone we love, things will get messy. We might be rejected. We might get into a long, difficult discussion. There’s a good chance we’ll get accused of meddling in what’s not our business. It will cost us. But here’s the thing, if we don’t do this work – if we don’t speak the truth to the people we love – it’s going to cost us much more. It’s going to cost us community. If we don’t speak the truth in love to one another, we’ll have pseudo-community. And we’re not made for pseudo-community. We’re made for community.

And so here’s what I’m going to leave us with tonight.

First, all need a truth-teller. And so consider inviting someone to be your Nathan. Or consider forming an accountability group. This should be a close friend or group of friends, people you trust, people willing to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. For example, if you’re in a huge fight with your roommate, it’s a lot of fun buddying up with someone else and talking about all their flaws and how inconsiderate they are, but have you ever invited anyone to examine how you’ve contributed to the problem? Or to remind you of your deepest values as a Christian – that blessing those who curse us, that turning the other cheek, that repaying evil with good is Christianity 101? #1 – we all need a truth-teller.

Second, we all need to be truth-tellers. However, we can only tell the truth to someone if we’ve received that invitation, whether it’s a formal invitation or an informal one. And if you want to speak the truth in love to someone else, here are some prerequisites. You can’t be looking forward to it. It has to be because you love them. You have to sacrifice your own comfort for their well-being. In other words, telling the truth should cost you something.

And so tonight we end where we began. First, we really want to know the truth about ourselves. Second, we really don’t want to know the truth about ourselves. Our tendency is to both seek the truth and resist it. Which one will we choose?


Toothpick said...

another great read, buddy. thank you. Tpop

Lindsey Hughes said...

well said, John. Thanks again. said...

This is wonderful. such a lot of info you provided here for your readers. Thank God i could visit this wonderful page. May God continue to give more wisdom to give more of His knowledge here. God bless. love Philip Verghese 'Ariel'