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An Equation For All Seasons

December 9, 2020·Dan Hicks

I can remember, as a little boy, playing on the teeter-totter with my older sister at Riverside Park in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Have you ever been on a teeter-totter? If not, let me give you a fair warning. For a teeter-totter to work properly, it must be equally weighted on both sides, or things can go sour quickly.

When my sister and I would play on the teeter-totter together, being older than I, she would enjoy scaring me by 1) holding me up in the air, or 2) once I was suspended in the air, she would suddenly get off her end and send me crashing to the ground!

At that point, the fun was over and things became dangerous. Sometimes a bitten tongue, or worse, bruised bottom.

In our Pause Bible reading plan this week, we read the book of 2 John.

All of John’s letters are known for bringing the concepts “truth” and “love” together into a single idea. In 2 John, we find that he provides a broader development of the “truth and love” idea.

2 John 3, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”  Along with the points of grace, mercy and peace, I want to add “joy.” I don’t believe this does any injustice to the text whatsoever. In doing so, taking what John has written and including joy, I see a simple formula. Here’s what it looks like:

Love + Truth = Grace, Mercy, Peace and JOY

Have you ever noticed that sometimes people act as though grace, mercy, peace and joy depend on love minus truth? In other words, it’s as though none of these gifts from God (grace, mercy, peace or joy) could exist in the challenging context of speaking the truth.

I’m certain that each of us has, at times, hidden or shaded uncomfortable truths in our communications with others, in order to try to keep things comfortable. When we do this, it generally is in the belief that telling the truth wouldn’t be loving.

Or, we may fear that telling the truth will lead to conflict or bad feelings, rather than grace, peace or joy. In an effort to conduct ourselves in a manner which we think is being merciful, we fail to tell the truth.

Remember the teeter-totter?

In the same way, when the balance between truth and love is unequally weighted in our lives, or in the church, things can go bad.

On the one hand, a faith community or a person can be so truthful and they are unloving or on the other hand a faith community or a person may be so loving they are untruthful. This imbalance is so often the reason for disharmony, or worse, disunity.

John’s message is certainly one of love, but love must always begin with the truth.

As we step into Christmas month, let’s remember, love came to us through Christ, and Christ is the perfect embodiment of the truth of God.

I never want to forget that God knows the way things really are, so, He wrapped His truth in His love and brought it to us through Jesus, His Son.  This fact is why this season is so important for our world.

So, if we are ever to know God’s mercy, grace, peace and joy we must begin with the truth, not with lies, evasion or fairy­tales. And yes, telling the truth may at times lead to conflict or upset feelings. But, if we remain committed to speaking the truth and if we stay committed to loving as God loves, then grace, mercy and peace will come to us just like Jesus came!

And that, dear one, is when you can know True Joy.

Have a wonder-filled, joyful month!

Pastor Dan Hicks

The Church on the Way