“…the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”
J F Kennedy, Yale Commencement 1962
I came across this popular Kennedy quote recently in Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr’s A Thousand Days: John F Kennedy in the White House. Kennedy wasn’t talking about the myths of religion, but of business and politics. However, one of the great challenges to Christian faith is the multitude of myths and half-truths to which we hold on so firmly. We are not always sure what is myth and what is truth, but we defend all with passion. Often it is the myth, call it our interpretation of a truth, to which we hold on most firmly, and we too easily let the solid truths slip by. (Myth, of course, means far more than simply something that is untrue, but, like Kennedy I am using “myth” in its simplistic and negative sense.)
“Love one another.” Unequivocally the clearest most certain command of Jesus to his followers, you and me included, yet one that is most often ignored in favour of less important, or less certain truths.
It was not their evangelism that Jesus told his disciples would convince the world, or their theological understanding, or even their worship. Jesus said, “By your love for one another, the world will know….” Yet we defend our understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit, our forms of worship, our methods of evangelism, even when such defence destroys friendship, and denies the love demanded of us all.
We spend a great deal of time and energy trying to counter those who are different from us, whether within the Christian faith, or outside of it, and spend precious little energy or effort on exploring ways to show love. I’m not much good at love, I admit. Love carries great risk. Love doesn’t ask whether I will be loved in return. Love is not concerned about being rejected, only with the opportunity to give, and to give extravagantly. I find myself too quickly asking about the consequences: What if? And love is stifled. But, knowing that, recognising my weakness in the most important of commands, I would rather be less noisy about the faults of others.