When the Truth is Painful
Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10
Recently, I sat across from an addict who blamed everyone except himself for his life’s problems. I listened politely for a while, but after 15 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. My response was truthful, but in my frustration, I used language and tone that was inappropriate. James (name has been changed), you are full of it (only I didn’t say “it”). Your life problem is you and until you accept that, you’re going to continue making the exact same mistakes over and over!
This is sort-of how mutual accountability groups are to work. We often need others to see through our nonsense when we cannot. I wasn’t wrong in pointing out my fellow addict’s fallacies. I may have been wrong in how I said it.
When I’m angry or frustrated, I like to remind myself of passages like today’s, where John the Baptist called the Pharisees snakes, and told them that they were destined for an unquenchable fire if they didn’t truly repent. John though, was a prophet, and I’m not. Though I must share the truth with other addicts, I must share that truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). In knowing right and wrong, I must always make sure that I don’t become wrong in expressing the truth.
Some messages are just painful though, no matter how we say them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be said. The addict who blames everyone else for his relapses and incarceration needs to hear that he is the problem. Similarly, we all need to hear John’s painful truth.
John said that if we claim to follow God, then our lives must bear the fruit of following him. The Pharisees followed a strict list of dos and don’ts, but in their rule-following, they never got around to doing God’s work. They loved and worshipped rules instead of loving their neighbors and worshipping God.
We often do the same. We consider ourselves Christians because we don’t drink or smoke. According to John though, this isn’t faith or repentance. Following God means that our lives bear his fruit. Do our lives show that we’re living for God? Or do we just claim to follow him? The hard truth is that if we aren’t bearing fruit for God, we’re fooling ourselves in claiming that we live for him.