Attentiveness: Whatever is True….
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
I decided not to do a blog post starting like this:
“Well, this has been a very difficult year….” Or like this:
“I am sure many of us can’t wait for this pandemic and election to be over….”
However, I believe Scripture directs us differently. We need to start with the Great Truth first. We do have to face the truth about what is going on around us—and that includes poverty, racism, refugees, violence and illness—but first we must remember the Truth Who is over us and under us. Our feet are firmly planted in the Word of God to guide all we think and do. What about our heads or our minds? “Set your minds on things that are above…” This is not just a suggestion. It is a firm command and reminder that we have hope, and we must live with, into, and surrounded by that hope.
I remember about three years ago struggling with a chapter I was writing on praise in Christian worship. When I was writing about praise, I thought about a close friend who was dying of cancer at the time. How can I write about praise and thanksgiving in the midst of such real and every present tragedy? In a time of lament, conflict, loss, or violence, is it not inappropriate (at least) to praise and thank God?
The answer is not easy, but it is critical that we answer this question with biblical and pastoral integrity. It is a matter of truth. My conclusion is that even or especially in the midst of the valley, God is with us, and therefore we can and must thank God. Even when Jesus was on the cross, suffering and bleeding, there was the dawning of a new type of praise and thanksgiving: our sins are paid for. This is what I wrote at the time:
“It is dishonest to pretend everything is OK when it is not, but it is also dishonest to think God is not worthy of praise when life is difficult. Life is difficult all of the time. Praise is still in season, all of the time.”
In thanking God, we are living according to the Great Truth, that Jesus is Lord, not the little truth that Satan is still alive and sin still has room in this in-between time. Truth is the foundation not only for thanks, but for justice and righteousness as well. That’s why thinking about truth is not optional. We are commanded to think about truth, in fact. Jesus identified himself as truth, and I could go on and on. “Whatever is true….” (Philippians 4:8).
However, as we all know, truth is getting harder to grasp today. It has always been hard to grasp in countries where there are dictatorships or government-controlled media. Many of us have lived or traveled in such countries. But in the United States, where we have protected a free press, it is only recently that “truth” about our world has become difficult. To be brief, I believe the free market has taken over the free press. Avarice is the word. News outlets attract more “hits” and therefore more advertising money as they find something more sensational and even emotionally engaging. As Christians, we need to think about truth. Who can I trust? Where is there more accurate information rather than less accurate? It is getting hard to have healthy and honest conversations with Christian friends once we find ourselves lost in an echo chamber of “particular” news, rather than broadly accepted and approved sources of information. It is both hard, and uncomfortable at times.
This Christmas season, I pray we will, in all humility, recognize that we are being used and manipulated by easily accessible “information” that is often dramatic and engaging. I think we need to repent of settling for “information” instead of seeking truth. We need to seek God’s face about how we now are going to live. Moving forward, how are we going to strive to think about what is true? How are we going to say “No” to the media (social and otherwise) dividing Christians through their invasive “discipling” of our minds?
I have some ideas, but I pray that the one who will lead us in all Truth, even the Spirit of the living God, will guide us. He wants to do so, if we would just humble ourselves—to kneel before the Truth as the shepherds did at the manger and the Magi did before the Christ child. I will do so this Christmas season, and I invite you to join me.
 Why Church? A Basic Introduction. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019) p. 84.
Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.