Better than “My version of reality”

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:1-6

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Sunflower | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

Lyle Schaller was a preeminent church consultant and author. He wrote 55 books and edited 44 others. His insights were keen and to the point: “My version of reality,” he would say, and then go on to express how things really are, as opposed to how they ought to be. He published a helpful and insightful weekly newsletter, The Parish Paper in which he would highlight certain insights about ministry and organizational issues and ideas.

Once he was asked for permission to copy the newsletter so it could be shared with the church’s leadership. “I wish you hadn’t asked that,” he said. “I am not allowed to give people permission to do that.” The message was clear: Don’t ask, and I won’t tell.

It reminds me of John’s declaration: Don’t sin. But if you do, there is forgiveness. It’s not quite a get out of jail free card, but it is an honest admission of something that John will drill into further later in this chapter. It has to do with the reality of sin and our continuing need for forgiveness, mercy, and God’s grace.

Jesus spoke about divorce as something that Moses allowed because of the hardness of our hearts. It’s a sad version of reality: even at our best we fail. Marriages fail. Women fall prey. Men fall into temptation. Children rebel. Old people become self-righteous. We are all broken.

We need an advocate, and thanks be to God – we have one: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the World. That’s not just my version of reality, nor even Lyle Schaller’s. It’s God’s truth.

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