Leviticus 19:11, Colossians 3:9-11
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
In 1966, a landmark US Supreme Court decision established a new police procedure that ensured persons under arrest of their rights to have an attorney present and to protect themselves from self-incrimination. These rights were already guaranteed by the Sixth and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution, respectively, but an ACLU lawyer argued that defendants were often unaware of them. The new police procedure was named for the defendant in that particular case, Ernesto Miranda. We’ve all watched TV police procedurals and are familiar with the Miranda Warning: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” And so on. Isn’t it interesting that we need to be protected from incriminating ourselves with our truthful words?
Scripture urges us to be truthful. Lies and deceit damage our relationships with God and with one another. Even a little bit of deceit is harmful: nobody enjoys having to tease the truth out of a knot of verity and falsehood. Doing so makes us wonder whether we can trust anything a person says, when even one lie casts the shadow of doubt on everything. Where there is deceit, there can be no trust, and where there is no trust, there can be no healthy relationship. That’s why we must be honest with one another, even if our truthful words may make us uncomfortable or even incriminate us. Telling the truth sometimes means acknowledging our own failures, which nobody relishes, but the community of faith needs to be a safe place for us to be the imperfect, struggling people that we naturally are. A safe place to be honest with each other and to forgive each other.
Words have power. God spoke the world and everything in it into existence. “Let there be light,” he said, and there was light. All things material and immaterial are under his command and control, yet he made us humans in his image, not bound by instinct alone as the animals but gifted with intelligence and reason, able to make our own decisions. Free will has gotten us into trouble at times, but God loves us enough to forgive us when we fail—if we ask. Regularly we miss the mark of perfection he demands, falling into sin. But when we confess our sin to Jesus and invite him into our hearts to save us, we give him permission to remake us, to re-create us in his image. We throw off our old habits, our old sinful behavior, and enjoy the shiny newness that has always been in us but was buried under layers of selfishness and deceit. Like Eustace Scrubb in C.S. Lewis’s “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” we are un-dragoned, not by Aslan’s sharp claws but by the loving discipline of Jesus Christ.
The pain of transformation is a joyful pain because we know that what we are giving up is only what has prevented us from full relationship with God and with our fellow believers. From the outset, we might worry that the price of salvation and sanctification is more than we can afford, until we realize that it was Jesus who paid the debt on our behalf, and all we have to do is accept his gift, freely given. Once we align ourselves with him and his work we long to be rid of all that holds us back: envy, greed, deceit, divisiveness, bitterness, and pettiness. Nobody has time for those things when there’s kingdom work to be done. We can turn from our old life wandering in darkness and walk confidently in the light. And we can share the good news of salvation with everyone we encounter who asks how we can live in such a crazy, mixed-up world without growing cynical and mean. Those things don’t affect us any more, we can tell them, because we know a savior who has overcome the world, has defeated death itself. And that’s the truth.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available) and stay afterward for Discovery Hour (all ages).