Justice

Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy; for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
— Psalm 62 v.12

Some of the best of men have held the theories I stigmatize, men I have loved and honored, some heartily and humbly—but because of what they were, not because of what they thought; and they were what they were in virtue of their obedient faith, not of their opinion. They were not better men because of holding these theories. In virtue of knowing God by obeying his son, they rose above the theories they had never looked in the face, and so had never recognized as evil. Many have arrived, in the natural progress of their sacred growth, at the point where they must abandon them. The man of whom I knew the most good gave them up gladly. Good to worshipfulness may be the man that holds them, and I hate them the more therefore; they are lies that, working under cover of the truth mingled with them, burrow as near the heart of the good man as they can go. Whoever, from whatever reason of blindness, may be the holder of a lie, the thing is a lie, and no falsehood must mingle with the justice we mete out to it. There is nothing for any lie but the pit of hell. Yet until the man sees the thing to be a lie, how shall he but hold it! Are there not mingled with it shadows of the noblest truth in the universe? So long as a man is able to love a lie, he is incapable of seeing it is a lie. He who is true, out and out, will know at once an untruth; and to that vision we must all come.

Commentary

by Stephen Carney

“Some of the best of men have held the theories I stigmatize, men I have loved and honored, some heartily and humbly-but because of what they were, not because of what they thought, and they were what they were in virtue of their obedient faith, not of their opinion.”  The first time I read these words, I must admit, they shocked me.  Not for reasons you might think, but because I had always thought that one's opinions ultimately defined them.  When I was young, I thought that if someone held different theological opinions from mine, well, they weren't one of the “true” believers, or they were in the wrong camp.  They might even be headed for heresy if they didn't come around to the “right” way of thinking soon.  But, in time, I learned that they were lovers of Christ just as much as I was, which made me pause and re-examine my own beliefs and thinking.  

It is easy to develop a partisan spirit in regards to our beliefs, and found new denominations over differences of opinions.  It is why the early church developed the Apostle's Creed, which said, here are the primary truths that bind us together, this is Orthodoxy, now let's debate the details without breaking fellowship.  The sad marker of our day is that we seem to feel that we must break fellowship with those with whom we disagree.  In our world of politics, this has become a daily experience as people unfriend one another over a FaceBook post, or shut down free speech, believing that only our camp is worthy of being heard.  We might be losing the general respect for one another that MacDonald espouses in the words above.  

Of course, there are real discussions that need to be made about the issues.  Debate is a lost art in our culture. The issues before us in the body of Christ, as well as in the political realm, need serious debate and discussion, but my concern is that without this respect and honoring of one another, how will this debate ever take place?  We must not write off those with whom we disagree, as we hope they will not write us off as well.  We need serious but friendly debate and discussion, or else we can never hope to come to better a understanding till we meet God face to face.  Then, of course, we will all throw down any foolishness we have held on to, and in the light of His face come to see that real Truth is the revelation of God to man and that there was much of which we only saw shadows.  

Our opinions reveal much about ourselves, but, as MacDonald says, it is our obedience to Christ that tells who we really are.  Our opinions can change, and one day we will see all things differently than we do now, but for now let us honor each other and encourage or even provoke one another to follow our Lord a little more closely, knowing that the closer we all come to Him, the closer we will be to one another, not just in the proximity of love, but also of beliefs.  The deeper we all go into Christ, the more we will become one with each other, till the day comes that we all stand arm and arm around the throne. knowing the truth of MacDonald's anagram, “Corage, God mend al.”

Finally, we are encouraged to speak the truth in love.  If someone knows that you love them, you can speak more deeply into their life.  The reason most cannot bear to hear objections to their opinions is that they take it as a rejection of their own selves. They falsely believe we must agree with each other to love one another.  Nothing could be further from the truth, nor further from the heart of God.  “Herein is the love of God; not that we first loved God, but that He first loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  God's love stands unbreakable before us, before our opinions, and before even our love for him.  It was God's love for us that has made us able to bear the truth and when we first love others, they too will come to hear the truth, not as rejection, but as words of love and terms of endearment.