Scripture often guides, inspires us


There are times when St. Paul’s writings amaze me. There are times he’s prescient about the dangers facing us today. That shouldn’t surprise us. We’ve always known the Scripture’s power to guide and inspire us throughout life. But some of his foresight is amazing!

I’m particularly impressed by wisdom found as Paul writes to Timothy. His words intimate that Timothy finds himself in challenging times. He urges Timothy to stand fast to the truth, to what’s right – in spite of pressures all around to cave in to alien views. Paul says, “I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”

Then Paul adds, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine (truth), but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.”

Paul is urging Timothy to be courageous in truth – in spite of countless others who are ready to cave into alien ideas. With an imagery that I love, Paul warns against people with “itching ears” that surrender integrity to some thought that’s convenient, or a “popular” idea, or is demanded by a currently favored leader.

In honesty, it’s easy for ones’ thinking to fall into line with alien ideas. After all, with the din of endless opinions, and the racket of conflicting views, it’s easy to fall victim to attractive lies. In fact in today’s world, it can be dangerous to deny the truth, to disavow the siren claims of attractive tyrants. So “itching ears” are the “safe” solution.

We can find the power of truth in the trustworthy life of an Old Testament “giant.” The prophet Nathan dared to speak up to the strongest man of his day, the leader of his nation. He dared confront King David with the truth of his sin, actually his double sin in relation to Bathsheba.

David’s adulterous liaison with Bathsheba is well known, but David compounded that sin by conspiring to have her husband killed in battle, thus freeing her to marry David. Nathan went to David, spinning out an intriguing tale of a powerful man’s selfish greed for something that belonged to another. Once David was ready to condemn the man in the story, Nathan looked him in the eye, and said, “Thou art the man!”

Unfortunately, prophetic voices like Nathan’s are hard to find today. And let’s be honest. It’s not the lack of such voices. And it’s more than the super-abundance of voices and positions speaking into our “itching ears.” I fear we’ve all retreated to our own enclaves of prejudice, insulating ourselves from discomforting truth. As an example, most folks lean almost exclusively on one kind of news or information source – like FOX news for one persuasion and CNN or MSNBC for the other end of the spectrum.

If I’m even a little bit correct in this, how tragic! How tragic for our nation! So tragic – I believe we must alter our thinking and priorities in several ways.

1. We must become serious about what is truth! Truth is something so precious that we dare never settle for some rumor or unsubstantiated bit of information.

2. We must search for ideas, arguments, truths that are contrary to our usual thinking. We dare not settle for thoughts and ideas that are easy, ideas that support our existing views and “prejudices.” In other words, we must be challenging our ideas (and prejudices) all the time!

3. We must seek and find the truly prophetic voice. I suggest beginning with the Bible — and then I dare you to review it in tandem with someone whose positions are contrary to yours.

In all of this, remember one of the significant Biblical promises: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Truth is one of God’s most precious gifts. We dare not squander it in any way.

Rev. William McCartney is a retired United Methodist minister and a professor emeritus of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

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