Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are married now. Her dress may be an illustration of the fact they have taken things out of order. A New York Post article described her expensive Versace gown as “a gross display of parenting run amok.” I guess having your six children’s doodles sewn onto your wedding gown is not a proper fashion statement. Interestingly, I didn’t read an article that mentioned having six children outside of a marriage covenant was a problem. My how times have changed!
I realize that I have become somewhat accustomed to the notion that marriage is an option, not a social requirement. It is increasingly normal to see weddings performed for people who are already living together as married, even for Christians. Weddings have become social affairs and parties that can last most of the night. The bride and groom don’t feel any need to rush off, if you know what I mean.
Is virginity an antiquated idea? Is it simply another dated concept that was proper for those in the biblical era, but not relevant to our modern times? When did sex outside of marriage become the norm?
According to a WebMD article, research shows that by the age of 44, 95% of Americans have had unmarried sex. I read the entire article and I was dismayed at what I saw. I knew the trend. I didn’t know the numbers. Can it be true that only 5% of our country is living with biblical standards for their sex lives? Only God knows the true numbers, but everyone knows the cultural shift. Are people like Brad and Angelina most responsible? I don’t think so.
I remember when the church began to embrace our pregnant teens and reach out to them and their babies. It was a good idea. I remember when churches softened their preaching on the issue of divorce because they didn’t want to alienate or hurt the people who were suffering the pain of a broken marriage. I remember when churches began talking to their young people about pre-marital sex with more grace – because they didn’t want them to feel guilty about their past. When do good ideas separate us from God’s ideas? When the good idea is only partial truth.
I have studied and taught Scripture for a lot of years. I have watched the rise of some of the mega-pastors and examined their popularity. I have seen the behavioral trends among God’s people. I spent most of the summer preparing a Bible study in the Minor Prophets. I can say with confidence, partial truth is one of Satan’s favorite decoys. If we can believe something Satan says, there is a better chance we will believe everything Satan says. Partial truth is never the truth.
I have heard partial-truth sermons that speak of God’s grace and love, but not his judgment and discipline. I have heard partial-truth counsel that speaks of God’s forgiveness without speaking about the need to repent and make things right with others. I have heard heartfelt kindness without biblical truth. Partial truth is never the truth. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).
I take heat sometimes from people who think I don’t have enough grace and forgiveness. They are right. I tend to err on the side of truth, even if the truth is going to hurt them. I’ve tried to learn to speak the truth in love, but I expect it will be a lifelong effort for me. I’ve seen too much pain and brokenness that has resulted from partial truth parenting, partial truth teaching and partial truth counsel. So what is the answer? Should we go back to shouting about sin? Should we live more like the Puritans and publicans? Is it worth risking the appearance of grace for the merits of truth? The answer to all of the questions above is the same. The only right answer is “if God tells you to.” So how can you know what to do, what to say, the attitude to take and the witness you should have? How do you know what God is saying?
That answer is certain and sure. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine.” We cannot be disciples of Christ if we do not continuously live according to his teaching. We have to know Scripture, we have to know the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit and we have to continually walk in accordance with God’s leadership. That is a true disciple of Christ. That is someone who knows what to say, when to say it, how to say it and knows that it isn’t their idea to say it. Jesus went on to say, “you will know the truth.” When we know the truth, we know how to respond. Until we know the truth, we do not know anything. The most dangerous Christians are believers who think they know, but fail to ask God what they need to know. Only God’s truth sets people free.
Everyone we know sins. The most important sins to understand and contemplate are our own. The best way to share God’s truth with others is through the overflow of truth in our own lives. The truth, spoken in love, will set people free. Partial truth is never the truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There are a lot of things besides the Brangelina wedding that remind us we are getting things out of order. Christians know the truth that can set people free. Who will you share that truth with this week?