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postheadericon Truth Matters

…contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

(Jude 3)

On the morning of my wedding an uncle who had been married a good number of years gave me some advice. ‘She’s always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s right’. He wanted me to realize that to enjoy a quiet life as a husband I should always surrender the argument to my wife. Sound advice? On occasions when little is at stake it may be best not to risk division by pressing home an argument. But even within marriage there will be times when the issue under discussion is so serious that searching for the best outcome through gracious argument has to be the responsible course. Some times contending for the truth is necessary. Truth matters.

Jesus Christ certainly thought so. He presented himself as the truth: I am the way and the truth and the life.’ (John 14: 6) and He was a contender for the truth about himself as the Son of God, the world’s Saviour and Judge. Christ’s enemies understood this better than most. They once tried to entrap him and although they were unsuccessful their flattering approach contained more than a grain of truth: ‘You teach the way of God according to the truth. You are not swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are’ (Matthew 22: 16). Jesus spoke the truth about himself even to those who were skeptical and hostile, and he was undeterred by the prospect of disagreement: ‘Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division’ (Luke 12: 51).

Christ’s claim to be the bringer of division and not ‘peace on earth’ may seem to challenge his right to be the prophet Isaiah’s ‘Prince of Peace’ whereas the opposite is true. Had he withheld the truth about himself for fear of alienating skeptics no one would have heard his Good News, believed in him and gained peace with God: ‘Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).

Christ understood the importance of contending for the truth and he expects his followers to be equally committed even if it results in disagreement within families: ‘From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three’ (Luke 12: 53). Jesus does not set out to deliberately create division between people; on the contrary division is always regrettable and sad. Nevertheless, if those who are ignorant of God’s love are to come to know him the truth about Christ must be explained to them, and if those who claim to be Christian and yet hold fast to heresy are to be challenged and enlightened the truth about Christ must be contended for. There is always a risk of disagreement and division but the Bible clearly sets out the Christian’s responsibility: ‘Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (Jude 3).

Jude’s exhortation is less than popular with those who insist it does not matter what you believe as long as you live well and love all. Such people should consider the mind of Christ.  He who calls himself ‘the truth’ does not share such a lack of doctrinal concern. It is plain that Christ loves the truth, speaks the truth, he is the truth. How then can his followers be so indifferent to it? There is always room for debate on peripheral matters but the central Christian truths cannot be compromised. We must, as Rupert Meldenius famously wrote, ‘…preserve unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials and charity in all things.’ Problems arise among Christians when we make concessions on clearly revealed scriptural truths which should never be surrendered yet insist on secondary matters which are neither revealed nor required by God. E.g. Christians may agree to disagree on the bodily resurrection of Christ and at the same time divide over whether or not clergy should robe to lead worship.

What are the essential truths that Christians must never fail to contend for? They are the Truth about Christ, and the Truth about Holiness. The irreducible minimum of Christian belief is that Jesus of Nazareth is the unique God-man who died for our sins and was raised from death to be the Saviour of the world. Christians believe and act on these truths by submitting to Christ as Lord and trusting him as Saviour. Just as Christianity exalts Christ so it promotes holiness. The truth about Christ and the truth about holiness are essential truths that cannot be sacrificed and should always be contended for even at the expense of disagreement and division. We have to accept that ‘they may not always be right and when they’re wrong, they’re wrong’.  Truth matters.

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