Anyone ever play the icebreaker game called Two Truths and a Lie? Each person in the group gives three statements: two true statements (duh) and a lie (duh). Everyone else has to guess which two are true and which one is the lie. Obviously, if you are a bad liar based on your micro-expressions and mannerisms, the lie is easy to spot. But if you take away the nonverbal parts of speech, then it is harder. Or if you tell three similar statements, you can nest the lie among the true statements.
See if you can tell:
- I have been to Italy.
- I have been to France.
- I have been to Germany.
Now onto to weightier matters.
After reading all of the Old Testament book of Isaiah and now in Jeremiah and other history books in the Bible, you come away feeling that God is always angry at the nation of Israel. He’s always promising some judgment and destruction. But can you honestly expect otherwise?
Parents expect their children to obey the rules all the time.
If you are a parent or a teacher, you set for the rules for your children or students. Some rules make sense like: one person talks and everyone else listens. If you make a mess, you clean up after yourself (if you are able). No swearing or cursing. No exceptions.
Other rules are more based on custom but still expected to be observed: laundry day is Monday. If you don’t bring your clothes down, you’ll be wearing your dirty clothes (or none!). Store the kitchen utensils in the same designated drawers and trays. There are seating arrangements at the dinner table where an older sibling is seated next to a younger sibling.
We instinctively realize that rules need to be obeyed all the time in as much as possible. Sure, there are exceptions, limitations, and bad rules. Sure, rules can be bent and loosely interpreted but still does not defeat the original intent and purpose or the need. This is especially true when it comes to relationships. How would you like to be friends with someone who is extremely punctual for one week and then late all the time the next two weeks? Can you trust a liar (like a certain ex-President whose last name begins with C-L-I) ever again even if he is telling the truth this time?
Arguing from the lesser to the greater, why can’t our Heavenly Father set rules and expectations, impose consequences for disobedience, in order to have the best relationship with his people?
Be holy, for I am holy. – I Peter 1:16
Parents love their children even if they don’t follow the rules.
Any good parent will say that even while their kid is throwing a tantrum or doing something stupid, they still don’t stop loving them. I think of Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey. The Messiah was crying and lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem in less than forty years. Jesus said: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
The same city that killed the prophets now will kill him.
The same people who hailed him as King of the Jews on Sunday will call for his death on Friday.
Yet on the cross, Jesus prays for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Oh, the executioners knew fully well, but God still loves them.
Lie #1: I ran out of second chances.
That’s not from God. Stop believing that. It doesn’t mean you never make amends, never attempt to change, never try to do it better next time. When reading Isaiah and Jeremiah, each time, God the Father states that he will turn away his anger if His people will only admit they were wrong and come to him honestly. If there was ever a time limit, it was measured in decades and even centuries, not minutes and months like earthly fathers.
Lie #2: The two statements both can’t be true.
There are some people who are stickler for the rules. If there are infractions, those are rarely excusable. Everyone must go through severe punishments, penance, and then probation. Surely it must be the same with God, right? The Judeo-Christian God is tough, right? But that’s not true too. Even as God is announcing his judgment, he is also announcing his mercy. Yes, mercy in the Old Testament as much as the New Testament! Go read Psalms 103 and be amazed.
Lie #3: This is impossible to do.
No one expects you to balance perfectly both love and discipline at the same time. Everyone will either lean too much towards one. Forget the caricatures of Catholic nuns, social expectations, gender roles, even your own family and how they affected you for good or wore. Forgot what you might have read about others have said about the Old Testament.
So where do we go from here?
Actually, I started to internalize the two truths. Yes, there are standards of absolute purity and holiness (not just morality). Yes, I’ve failed those standards. This is why the second truth exists. Yes, God’s grace and mercy is always there too.