When I was in my early twenties, I was not being very respectful to my mother. I wasn’t being abusive or anything, but I was not honoring her. When we would have “discussions”, I was being a bit audacious, or as the English across the pond would say, “cheeky”. In other words, I was being a smart ass. Sorry for the use of an expletive, but I can’t think a better way to describe my attitude.
When my dad became aware of my cheeky behavior, he didn’t like it. He confronted me about it. He took me out on the front porch for a man to man, a heart to heart talk. Yikes! You know that feeling when you know you’re in trouble.
My dad was not one to put up with stuff for too long, and he didn’t beat around the bush. His arsenal of disciplinary tactics included “shock and awe”. He didn’t have any problem with “lowering the boom” or “bringing the heat”. He kicked “you know what” and didn’t ask questions later. “You know what” is the same as the expletive I used earlier. I didn’t want to overdue it.
When I was younger, I probably would have just received a “whoopin” followed by lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, this time was different. Hear is what my dad said.
“Robby, I love you, but I love your mother more. If you don’t stop being disrespectful, you’re going to have to move out.”
He didn’t yell. He didn’t over react in any way. This was a disciplinary approach that I was not accustomed to. It caught me off guard. Instead of shock and awe, He spoke the truth “in love”. He really emphasized the “Robby, I love you” part. He meant it, and I knew it.
As I absorbed the gravity of his words, I felt terrible. His words cut right through me. There was nothing that I could say. There was nothing to defend. I was guilty. Shame washed over me as the tears began to well up. I apologized and hugged my dad. He repeated that He loved me. As we embraced, I felt forgiven. But, my confession and repentance were not complete. My mom was the one who was hurt and directly affected by my behavior. So, I immediately went to her to ask forgiveness. Basically she was just inside the house and witnessed the whole encounter. We had a big hug and cry fest. Well, my dad didn’t cry, but mom and I had a good one. But, there was one more step in this process. My behavior had to change.
My dad’s new “speak the truth in love” tactic proved to be powerful and effective. I’m sure I wasn’t the perfect son after all this, but my behavior did change. My behavior didn’t change because I was afraid I wouldn’t have a place to stay. It changed because I saw the truth that my behavior was wrong. I had to admit it, accept it, confess it, and repent of it. Change was required.
It reminds me of my conversion experience. I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee at a weekend youth retreat. I don’t remember exactly what the talk or sermon was about but it cut through me like a knife. (I know some of you are thinking Bryan Adams right now.)
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.“ Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)
The truth of God’s word, just like my dad’s truth, opened me up and penetrated my soul. I came face to face with the reality of my own sinfulness, and my need for salvation and reconciliation with God.
“There is none righteous no not one.” Romans 3:10 (NIV)
“For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NIV)
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 (NIV)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23(NIV)
Learning that the truth that my behavior, my sin, was not pleasing to God, and that repentance was required for reconciliation was painful to hear. The truth hurt. But just like my conversation with my dad, there was another truth. The first thing my dad said to me was, “Robby, I love you.” I heard the Lord saying the same thing that night in Chattanooga.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8(NIV)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)
Truth and love go hand in hand. God is both. Like my dad, God gives us the opportunity to make things right. The hardest thing about Christianity is that in order to be a follower of Jesus, in order to show our “true and proper worship”, we have to offer our bodies-ourselves as a living sacrifice. As Jesus said, we have to “deny” ourselves. We have to exchange our will for God’s. In order for our sacrifice to be “holy and pleasing to God”, our mindset and behavior have to change and become something new. There has to be a transformation.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Of course, the good news is that we don’t have to do all this by ourselves. In fact, the transformation can’t happen unless God intervenes, and He did. Jesus died so that our transformation could be a reality. He is what makes all things new. Our responsibility is to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice”, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and follow Him in obedience.
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NIV)
Sometimes the truth hurts, but it can also set you free.
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Management