Loving Enough to Speak Truth
We grow in Christ only as we receive honest and loving feedback from others.
The story behind the sermon (from John Ortberg)
I preached this sermon right after I preached the sermon on giving God blessings to others. It was part of a sermon series based on the Christian psychologist Henry Cloud's statement that spiritual transformation requires "Grace plus Truth plus Time." For me, finding the 'edge' or 'spine' that will run throughout a message to give it not simply a structure but also its energy and sense of urgency is always one of the most formidable and elusive tasks in writing a sermon.
In this case it just wrote itself. The introduction looks at going to an auto shop where they tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth about your car. The next illustration was about a doctor who refuses to tell you the truth about your health because he doesn't want to risk hurting your feelings. In both cases, most people would be furious to discover that someone they trusted would sacrifice the truth so they could avoid a temporary conflict and make you feel good.
From that point on, the sermon just seemed to flow from a simple premise: we're so steeped in self-deception and God-forgetfulness that we need others to speak the truth in love. That's the only way we can grow as individuals and as a community of Christ-followers. Having laid that foundation, I spent the last section instructing people how that works—and how it does not work.
I ended the sermon as we moved into Communion by pointing to Christ and the cross. Understanding who he is and what he's done for us is the only way we can handle the full truth about our sinfulness.
Let me begin this week's message with a thought experiment. Imagine picking your car up from the shop after a routine tune-up and the technician says, ...
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John Ortberg is pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.