Saturday, June 13, 2020

Choose One

Is the more important duty of the church to bring truth, or to be kind?  The answer that everyone will want to grab, "both," is not available.  The Old Testament comes down pretty solidly on the side of "truth," though a few characters might fit the "kindness" category, such as Joseph and Solomon. In the New Testament John the Baptist, Paul, and James would vote "truth," Barnabas might say "kindness," and Peter would be conflicted.  The important position to know would be Jesus's, and examples could be brought up to support either side.

The denominational churches were all founded  from the "truth" camp but have largely moved to "kindness" in the last hundred years. I likely give the impression that I am one who would favor truth even in the face of hurting feelings, and I probably am more on that side of the mark than most people.  Yet my own internal impression is that I refrain from mentioning uncomfortable truths most of the time, preferring kindness.

Not all my readers are in the church, but all are entitled to an opinion on the matter.  Anyone who grew up in America  in the older generations and regularly reads anything with a traditional bent will know and understand enough to comment.  It might help if you mentioned that on the way by, though.


Christopher B said...

Can is not Should.
May is not Must.

It seems like at least half the time the issue is people trying to be too helpful, and the other half is people shooting off their mouths when silence would be better.

Grim said...

Truth. Natural theology shows that kindness was not important in how God made the world; and Jesus often speaks hard truths about wailing and gnashing of teeth.

james said...

The "both" is for truth and love, and kindness is not the same as love. As parents learn...

WRT truth, it's supposed to be told in love, but also told completely. Since people don't always listen to the whole story, what they hear first will be the whole thing for them. If you start with judgment, some people freak and flee. If you start with mercy, some people think kindness is the whole enchilada. "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" takes some wisdom in knowing who needs what when. The oppressed poor need stern rebukes from time to time too.

BFriendshuh said...

When I decided to rejoin Christianity, I knew I wanted to be with a Church that tried to avoid the silliness of modernism. To me, that mean Tradition, and as things turned out that meant the (Greek Orthodox) Church. I find it difficult to keep a straight face when a self-confessed lesbian pastor tries to preach about tolerance and charity.

So, I come down very hard upon the side of Truth, probably almost enough to toss "kindness" out completely. I'm sure there are dangers to that as well, but...

Which Screwtape letter was it wherein the elder tempter advises something along the lines of: "We incite the fool mortals to be afraid of judgment when nobody judges anyone for anything, and to be afraid of kindness in an age of cruelty?"

I think Christ's Churches could use a little more judgment and Truth these days.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

With James, I would say that love is deeper than kindness. That is something of what I was getting at. Love can be consistent with hard truth in a way that kindness cannot.

bs king said...

I'm reminded of the traditional lists of the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy that's been used since the middle ages:

Corporal acts of mercy:
1. To feed the hungry.
2. To give water to the thirsty.
3. To clothe the naked.
4. To shelter the homeless.
5. To visit the sick.
6. To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.
7. To bury the dead.

Spiritual works of mercy:
1. To instruct the ignorant.
2. To counsel the doubtful.
3. To admonish the sinners.
4. To bear patiently those who wrong us.
5. To forgive offenses.
6. To comfort the afflicted.
7. To pray for the living and the dead

I think they are an interesting addition to the discussion because the corporal works remind us that it's hard to hear the truth when our body is failing. I don't know if you'd call any of them kindness (I don't think of them as such) but some people might.

For the spiritual works though, truth comes out ahead of kindness by my count. The first three are definitely about truth, the next two are more about ourselves, #6 would probably be called kindness by many and #7 could be categorized multiple places.

So I think in answer to your question, the church's responsibility probably varies based on who its people are. I think that we see this with parenting. Parents could have excellent moral lessons to teach their children, but I think all of us would be appalled to see them teaching kids well, but allowing their kids to go without food or shelter if it was within their ability to provide it. Every few years I feel like there's a home school/adoptee abuse case that hits headlines where this happens, and everyone is horrified (again, not because the parents didn't have the means, but denied food when they could have given it). But once you've met your obligation for the needs of a person, I think truth becomes a bigger obligation.

G. Poulin said...

The kindness that we see in both the Old and New Testaments is of the concentric rather than the leapfrogging sort. Covenant members get first priority, followed by sojourners, with outright foreigners bringing up the rear. So it's not really a question of whether kindness gets prioritized; it's a question of who is most entitled to the kindness.