You can be sincerely wrong.
A demolition crew in Dallas tore down a century-old house by mistake last week. They had a permit to demolish a home two blocks away. “I’ve been in this business all my life and done thousands of demolitions, and this has never happened,” the owner of the demolition company said. “We made a mistake and thought we had the right property.”
This “mistake” is a cultural parable.
The “age of authenticity”
Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders won what the Wall Street Journal calls a “resounding victory” in the Nevada caucuses. His win cements his front-runner status for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The senator’s supporters especially appreciate his authenticity. Many of President Trump’s supporters say the same thing.
Ours has been called the “age of authenticity”. An international survey found that 87 percent of global consumers felt it was important for brands to “act with integrity at all times.” They ranked authenticity above innovation (72 percent) and uniqueness (71 percent) when asked what they valued most in a brand.
Millennials are especially suspicious of image and crafted messages. And they are 50 percent more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause.
Scripture endorses sincerity, of course. We are taught, “Let your love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy” (1 Peter 2:1).
But as I’m sure Sen. Sanders and President Trump would agree, sincerity by itself is not enough.
Will psychiatric euthanasia become legal in the US?
It is unsurprising that the Utah State Senate unanimously voted last week to decriminalize polygamy. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts foresaw such a move when a majority of the court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015: “It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.”
At the time, of course, same-sex marriage advocates were quick to decry his prediction. One claimed that “group marriage is the past—not the future—of matrimony.” Another was certain that polygamy faces “a much tougher uphill battle” than same-sex marriage.
Now that polyamory (“many loves”) is “the biggest sexual revolution since the 1960s” and shows like Sister Wives are fueling the growing popularity of polygamy, it is clear that such skeptics were sincerely wrong.
We could have the same conversation about the cultural acceptance of marijuana, even though, as the Wall Street Journal reports, “psychiatrists and epidemiologists have reached a consensus that it presents more serious risks than most people realize.” Or the growing popularity of euthanasia, which is now common in Belgium and the Netherlands for people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, not just those with terminal diseases. Can we be sure that psychiatric euthanasia will not become legal in the US as well?
Sincerity is not a valid test for truth. I’m sure Peter was sincere in insisting that he would not deny his Lord three times (Matthew 26:33–35). Saul of Tarsus was sincerely certain that Christianity was a dangerous heresy (Acts 9:1–2).
In a culture that prizes authenticity while devaluing objective truth, it is vital that Christians insist on both. How can we do this well?
From “son of thunder” to “apostle of love”
Jesus is our model.
He was transparently honest with every person he encountered, exposing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (Matthew 23) and the materialistic idolatry of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:21) but celebrating the humility of children (Matthew 18:1–4) and returning the repentant Simon Peter to his place of leadership (John 21:15–19).
However, you and I cannot pretend to possess Jesus’ divine character and omniscience. The good news is, the more we seek to be with him and to be like him, the more we become the change we wish to see.
Mary sat at his feet (Luke 10:39) and later anointed his feet in worship (John 12:3). John was such a “son of thunder” that he wanted God to destroy Samaritans who rejected Jesus (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54), but his relationship with Jesus so transformed him that he became known as the “apostle of love” (cf. 1 John 4:7–12).
Humans cannot change human hearts. But we can touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and receive grace to heal and transform us (Mark 5:25–34; for more, see my sermon yesterday). And we can ask our Lord to give us the wisdom to stand for truth while disagreeing with grace. (For more, see Claire Avidon’s latest article on our website, which beautifully captures this imperative.)
“Let me take you by the hand”
The best way to live with authenticity based in truth is to ask the authentic God who is truth to lead and transform us.
Henry Nouwen prayed: “Dear God, I want so much to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that you are saying, ‘Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled.'”
Will you take his hand today?