I had lunch with friend on Friday, and he said something that really stuck with me. Josh is a writer himself, so it’s no surprise he’s good with a turn of the phrase, but this one little gem has kept me spinning since we talked.
“Too many Christians,” he said, “live on second-hand truth.”
I knew immediately what he meant.
For many Christians, their knowledge of God, their relationship with Christ, their intimacy with the Holy Spirit, is only as deep as their pastor’s. Because many Christians never go beyond what they hear and see on Sunday.
So they quote what they hear from the pulpit. They allow the pulpit to direct their passions, their anger, even their love. And while having a pastor to help us understand the Scriptures is Scriptural itself, there is no substitute for living out the Word of God in our daily lives.
But many Christians don’t do that. Because we’ve been trained to accept second-hand truth as enough.
The problem with second-hand truth is its lifelessness. It’s flat. It falls apart when life happens. Your pastor says homosexuality is bad, and homosexuals are ruining the country, and then you actually meet someone who is gay and they don’t fit the narrative. In fact, you like that gay person, and your instinct is to get to know them, not shun them.
But the second-hand truth kicks in: you can’t associate with gay people and be a follower of Jesus.
True, the Bible says that Christians shouldn’t associate with the sexually immoral–which includes homosexuals, adulterers, divorcees, and folks who have sex before marriage–but only if the sexually immoral have identified themselves as Christians. And more often than not, the sexually immoral clause is part of a list of other behaviors like drunkenness, greed, gluttony, and overcharging people for coffee. And again, these lists are intended to call out wrongful behaviors of people who identify themselves as Christians.
In other words, the only people Christians should be shunning are Christians who claim to be Christians but don’t live like Christ.
But many preachers/pastors don’t frame the argument that way, and since folks are content to accept second-hand truth as Gospel, we end up with idiots protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers or marching to “protect” the rights of white people.
It’s tempting for me, as a former pastor, to place the blame on preachers. It would be easy to make the preachers out as the source of the problem, but the truth is they are merely the symptom. Bad theology in the pulpit isn’t the issue.
The real issue is Christians who don’t have a relationship with Christ.
You have to read your Bible for yourself.
You have to ask hard questions about what you read.
You need to seek out more than one opinion on things.
You bear the responsibility to take your doubts, misgivings, uncertainties before God in prayer.
The power of the Gospel to save is found in the truth of Christ, who he is, what he has done, and how he changes people. When you live by second-hand truth, you are not sharing the Gospel of Christ with the world; you are sharing with the world the Gospel of Whomever.
There is no power in the Gospel of Whomever.
Read your bible. Ask questions. Pray. Write down things you think about. Talk about what you read, think and feel with other people. This is Christianity. This is the community, the body, of Christ.
When you begin to do that, you begin to see the power of the Truth at work, first-hand, in the world around you.
And you’ll wonder how you ever settled for the second-hand variety.