am sure that most of us desire truth and truthfulness. After all, Jesus said, “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32).* So let’s look at the truth about our bodies. Recently I had a doctor’s appointment, and the first thing the nurse said was, “Hop up on the scale.” What did I do? I took off my shoes and my jacket. I put down a book I was reading. I even took a pen out of my pocket. If I were at home and weighed myself, I would have taken off all my clothes, if it meant I would weigh one pound less. When we weigh ourselves, we want our privacy. When’s the best time to weigh yourself? Before breakfast, before you shower (for fear of beads of water still on you), and after you’ve used the bathroom, right? Some of us might even take our false teeth out. Then we take a deep breath and exhale every bit of air—and look at the numbers.
Sometimes we buy larger-sized clothing to make it look as if we’ve lost weight. Retailers have come up with new concepts, such as relaxed fit and expandable waists. Passports, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates are tools that keep us honest. They keep things real. We can try to ignore them, but if we allow them to, they will teach us to be authentic.
Keeping Us Truthful
That’s why every one of us needs at least one person who can tell us the truth about ourselves from time to time. We all have rough spots and edges. We are prone to wander, and we need someone to tell us when we may be losing our footing, someone who will love us enough to care—a “truthteller.”
We will not grow with God in a casual or haphazard way. We need a personal coach, a trainer, or a spiritual mentor who also asks the hard questions.
You Are the Man
Scripture tells a story about a “truthteller” who was sent to save a king. The story is found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.
Israel’s armies were off fighting. Usually the king would accompany his army, but this time King David stayed home.
Bathsheba was taking a bath on the roof of her home. Since most men were off to war and it was already evening, she took her chances, avoiding having to haul heavy buckets of water into the house.
When temptation came to David, he did not resist. Like someone who sees the traffic light turning from green to yellow and, instead of slowing to stop, punches the accelerator. Instead of turning away from this woman taking a bath (as the yellow caution light comes on), David punched the accelerator and flew through the intersection recklessly, as the light turned red.
David was at the pinnacle of his life. His enemies on every side had been defeated. He had made it. He was loved by his people, living a life of ease and contentment. And Satan moved in for the kill. David was not interested in truth right then. He was interested only in getting what he wanted.
David slept with Bathsheba, and when she became pregnant David sent Uriah, her husband, into the front line of battle to have him killed. He thought his plan had worked, and for the next nine months David lived in hypocrisy, pretending to worship God and lead his people, carrying the burden and guilt of an adulterer and a murderer.
But then the time came for God to deal with David’s “truth.” God sent the prophet Nathan as a truthteller into David’s life. This was a dangerous assignment, but Nathan cared enough to confront.
For too long we have viewed the words “confront” or “confrontation” as intimidating words. We seem to shun confrontation at every cost. We envision someone who confronts as reaming somebody out, letting them have it with both barrels, mowing them down. But confrontation is good and necessary when it is done with love and seeking redemption.
I am amazed at how many times the Bible teaches us the importance of confronting others. Matthew 5:23, 24 and 18:15-18 invite us to confront as part of a necessary process of reconciliation. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:25-27: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Scripture teaches that fear of confrontation can damage the other person. So often we choose not to confront, but rather to gossip. We gossip because we don’t confront. Gossip is the cheap and easy way out. We are acting cowardly. It is the counterfeit to confrontation. There are churches today that are anemic, divided, and in ruins because of gossip. That’s why God hates it.
How does one confront? Galatians 6:1 says: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Only spiritual people confront with a spirit of gentleness.
At times people leave the church because they are unwilling to confront a situation. They leave bitter, bad-mouthing the church, because they would not confront a particular issue. Community requires commitment and honesty. When someone is harming themselves or the church with sinful patterns, it is not the loving thing to remain silent.
God sent Nathan into David’s life to rescue him. David was on a path of self-destruction. His life was falling apart. He was a lost man.
In 2 Samuel 12:1-4 Nathan comes to David with a parable. You remember the story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had a huge herd, and the poor man had only one little ewe. The poor man raised it, and it grew up with his family. It shared his food and drink and even slept in his arms. It was like a child to him. One day a traveler came to visit the rich man. It was customary for the host to serve the guest a meal, but the rich man refused to take a sheep from his own flock. Instead he took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the traveler.
The ewe was a pet; it wasn’t just an animal. David’s interest is roused. He knows about sheep and is struck by the downright cruelty of the crime. This man had enough sheep of his own; why on earth did he need to steal the pet of this poor family? The rich man was unwilling to take one of his own flock. He took the poor man’s sheep because he could
But David doesn’t quite understand the meaning of the story. At first he thinks that Nathan is bringing him a real legal case requiring judgment. David, as king, was accustomed to reviewing judicial cases—and yet he is still running from his own sin.
Up to this point David is looking at the splinter in this man’s eye, not seeing the beam in his own. He does not yet see that he is the rich man.
Nathan could have come up with all kinds of excuses not to confront David, but Nathan truly cares for David. He is not just speaking truth recreationally. David could have had Nathan killed, just as he did Uriah. Instead David begins to recognize that it is God who is at work, and he finally stops running. He listens to God’s truthteller. He might never have written Psalm 51 if Nathan hadn’t confronted him. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Ps. 51:10-12).
Do We Care?
Until we care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, we will never grow close to God or each other. Since we are family, we need to protect and defend the family at all cost. A family member may be a little goofy, but is still one of us. We all have quirks and annoying habits, but the basis of our fellowship is our relationship with God. This is how we become the family of God.
If telling the truth even when it is difficult is so important, if we all agree that we need it to grow, and if it is an act of love because we care, why do we often hesitate? The answer is simple: fear! It takes courage to be a truthteller. You might be rejected. Someone might say it’s none of your business. But telling people what they want to hear is not love. When people are engaged in self-destructive, soul-threatening behavior, they need someone who will tell them the truth in love. What if David didn’t have a Nathan? How would his life have turned out? Would David have taken his sin to his grave and been lost?
David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t always have it on his mind to be an adulterer and a murderer. No one takes a marriage vow with plans to end up in divorce court. No mother or father has a child and plans to be so busy with work and appointments that the child becomes a latchkey kid. No one picks up a glass of wine for the first time with plans to be a secret alcoholic. No man plans to become addicted to pornography when clicking on an innocent looking link. No one plans these things, but they happen every day, because we have few people in our lives that we have invited to tell us the truth about ourselves. David’s life could have ended tragically, but God cared too much, as did Nathan, to let that happen.
Is there a Nathan in your life? If not, start looking and praying for that someone. God might just send a Nathan into our lives to save us, or He might send us to be a Nathan in someone else’s life to help save them. Someone who cares enough to confront.
* All Scripture quotations have been taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Steve Jencks is senior pastor of the Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. This article was published May 12, 2011.