Thursday, 9 February 2012

the truth...can you handle it?


"He swears to his own hurt and does not change" 
Psalm 15 :4 (NASB)

Over the last few weeks the radio airwaves seem to have been dominated by a survey carried out by Essex University on the current state of British morals, particularly focussing on basic honesty in the general population. Faced with ten simple questions such as "would you buy property knowing that it was stolen?" or "Is it acceptable to knowingly break the speed limit?"  it seems that people in Britain are less honest today than they were ten years ago. 
Prof Paul Whitely, the report’s author, told The Independent newspaper: “It appears Britons are growing more and more tolerant of low level dishonesty and less inclined to sanction activities which would have been heavily frowned on in the past.” Today’s high profile role models (sic) such as sports stars and the ‘D’ list celebrities that clog our TV screens live in a world where adultery, lying and cheating are no longer things to be ashamed of. In fact these moral failures can even become quite lucrative little episodes when confessions and apparent remorse can be routinely aired in public through a magazine or chat show.

As Christians there is much we could say on the state of the world’s morals, or lack thereof, but that is not ours to judge.[i] What is of greater concern is when the world’s morality infects the church and their standards start to become ours. For some church groups I fear that the rot has long since set in. Sinful practices that were once frowned upon even in the world are now tolerated and even fully accepted in some parts of the church. Often the fear of man’s opinion and the prevailing spirit of the age have caused many in church leadership positions to abandon basic truths regarding righteousness in favour of peace at any cost. Integrity is replaced by situational ethics and expediency is preferred over biblical principle. Instead of building on the solid rock of God’s word many churches have chosen the shifting sands of public opinion, which in itself is increasingly shaped by the loud protestations of minority pressure groups who crave acceptance in wider society.

In these situations the church leader may even use the Bible to defend his position. Scriptures are often stretched to breaking point and subjective opinions inserted in order to try to reinforce an already shaky argument. However when the basic foundations were never right in the first place then this rickety structure is doomed from the start.

What about “low level dishonesty” (if there is such a thing) or “little white lies” as we like to call them? What about a leader who feels he needs to hide his true convictions in order to maintain his position? For example the minister who privately holds to the biblical position on baptism for believers only,  yet continues to sprinkle water on the heads of babies, knowing that if he stood up for his belief it might cost him his job and maybe even his home. Surely this man is no longer a servant of God and has become merely a hired hand?[ii]

What about the leader who buries his convictions in order to increase the attendance in his church? Worried that people might leave if they really knew what he believed, he settles for leadership of the lowest common denominator.   In this instance one must ask the question, whose church is this man seeking to build – God’s or his own? Jesus never shirked from saying the hard things that were seemingly unpalatable to the society he lived in or indeed in clearing out a temple that had become tarnished with the world’s values and standards. [iii] Sadly there are leaders today who will bend over backwards to accommodate the world at any cost.  After all “Surely God just wants as many people in the church as possible?” This leader will get his wish of course as people will always flock to have their ears tickled by the preacher who tells them what they want to hear. Even more so to a church where there is seemingly no authority and everyone can keep his or her own convictions on any given subject rather than submit to the word of God.

It was said of King David that he shepherded God’s flock with integrity of heart as well as skilful hands.[iv] In other words he was not just a leader of outstanding gift, but also one of character and courage. The church is in need of more leaders who display both these vital qualities and not just demonstrate their more obvious gifts and talents. It needs those who are truly submitted to God and who are seeking first His Kingdom.   Those who will stand up for what they know to be right rather than bow to the pressures of the world’s standards and opinions... “even when it hurts.”

[i] 1 Corinthians 15:12
[ii] John 10:12-13, 1 Peter 5:2-4
[iii] John 2:16-17
[iv] Psalms 78:72


  1. I've just finished reading Arthur Wallis's book 'Radical Cristian', this blog could easily have come from those pages. It's a real punch by the Spirit.

  2. Thanks Chris, you have brought a smile to my face. "The Radical Christian" is a great book by a great man of God. Any comparison is extremely flattering.