“Speaking the truth in love…”
I have read books that contain voluminous footnotes, some filling nearly an entire page. On occasion one can become so engrossed in them that the momentum shifts to these parenthetical matters and you can lose focus.
This reminds me of the seminary intern who had a disagreement with his supervising pastor over biblical authority. The intern was assigned to preach on the Gospel text for the day, John 3:16, the verse that Martin Luther once called “the Gospel in miniature”. He read the text and then concluded, “So says the Bible. The Bible is true and you can know the Bible is true for the following ten reasons.” He was off to the races on the “ten reasons” and left the text in the dust. An important footnote displaced the even more important central theme. When his supervising pastor inquired of him why he had ignored the assigned text, the young man replied defiantly, “The truth of the Bible must be defended.”
One way to trace the history of the Church is to trace this pattern of parenthetical matters demanding to be the center of attention. In recent decades the Lutheran church, of which I am a part, has been torn apart by the tensions resulting from this dynamic.
During the decade of the 1970’s, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was at war over the question of biblical authority, resulting in a split and the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, a moderate splinter group.
In the 1980’s, concern over dwindling church attendance led to conflict between traditionalists and those who were designing “churches for people who don’t like church” .
Beginning in the late 1990’s, insistence on the adoption of a form of the historic episcopacy led to widespread protests within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This bitter conflict has produced numerous opposition groups and one entirely new Lutheran denomination.
These matters (and many more that could be mentioned) are legitimate subjects, worthy of the application of our concern as Christians. To say something is parenthetical is not to say it is unimportant. At the same time, the behavior of the young intern should caution us. Truth without love can be willful, cruel and destructive.
The Church has no shortage of voices in these days demanding that the truth be heard. We could use a few more voices inviting the truth to be heard in love.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”