Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The empethatic emergent

One of the common themes that surrounds the emergent movement is that of empathy. Empathy is a good thing. All Christians should be compelled as Jesus was to relate to others. The problem, as I see it, is that truth is sometimes compromised at the expense of not wanting to offend others.

Brian McLaren has made this statement concerning the question of homosexuality, "Frankly, many of us don't know what we should think about homosexuality." He goes on to say, "Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements."[1] In one way I can see what I believe McLaren is trying to do. There have been many slanderous statements and fronts put on the homosexual community by those that call themselves Christian; this it seems is what McLaren wants to dodge so as not to come across as offensive. I applaud his concern for his fellow man, though I have a problem with one aspect of this approach. It appears that in his empathy, the truth of scripture is compromised. When Jesus was presented the woman caught in adultery, he offered both grace and truth (John 8:1-11). The truth came in the fact that he asked her to sin no more.

I'm sure Brian and others within the Emergent Movement don't want to compromise the truth of God, but that is exactly what they do when empathy (grace) is leaned on at the expense of truth. We can all agree that following God is not a simple task. One has to constantly deny himself/herself daily, and even at that we trip and fall. We have no business in pointing to specks in others' eyes when we are blinded by the lumberyard in our own eye, but again, we need to be willing to state the truth to others in a loving way.

C.S. Lewis once remarked on the individual who said that Jesus was only a good man by saying, "But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."[2] Similar to this thought is the idea that the message of Jesus is to only show empathy; he didn't leave that option to us as either. Jesus had some harsh things to say to those who were willing to listen. Sure, the Church should be vigilant in reaching out to individuals who have not submitted their lives to Jesus, but never at the expense of truth. Christians need to lovingly present the good news to all in a manner that is not condemning, but at the same time, truth should be defended. Peter states: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)." We all need to be prepared to give an answer concerning truth, but in a gentle and respectful manner.

[2] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, P. 40-41

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