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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Right Answer, Real Answer, Wrong Answer

A good friend of mine once explained the difference between the right answer and the real answer. The right answer is the answer that people will give you because they know they're supposed to. The real answer is what they actually think. Ask a church kid, "Who is Jesus?" and he might say, "He's my Savior" not because he actually believes it, but because his Sunday School teacher told him so and that's the answer you'll want to hear. It's right ... but it's not necessarily real to him.

There is another category of right answers. That would be ... the wrong answer. Bear with me. It is true that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. No question. It is true that sufferings are offered as a blessing to followers of Christ. It cannot be denied. It is absolutely true that God is good and God is sovereign in all things. The Bible is not unclear on these points. Yet, given all these right answers, when a mother loses a child and cries out, "Why?!", it would be the wrong answer to tell her these things. They aren't false. They just don't help at that moment.

This, I think, can be part of the confusion when people (like me) say, "The Bible is quite clear that homosexual behavior is a sin." This is a truthful statement. But is it the right thing to say? Just like the truth claims in the previous paragraph, it is correct, but it may not be appropriate. As a bald statement of truth, it is fine and even necessary. As an interaction with individuals, it may not be the truth that will address the situation. As such, it might be the wrong answer.

Truth is important. We are told to stand firm, to contend for the faith, to give a reason. These are all facts. But there is another factor that we are supposed to consider. We are supposed to be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). We are commanded, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29).

Let's remember James's admonition. "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (James 3:2). Let's not forget the power of the tongue.

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