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The Rev. Eugene Stockstill

Some people seem to think that God delights in fussing. That it gives God (pardon the expression) a good reason to get up in the morning.

The history of preaching itself supports such a view. “Give ‘em !@$#, preacher!” Remember the “Andy Griffith” episode when Barney, having slept through Sunday’s service, tells the preacher on the way out, “That’s something you can’t hear enough about: Sin!” And Andy whispers to his deputy, “He didn’t preach about sin, Barn.”

“If you are going to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise, they will kill you” (Oscar Wilde). The great wit, no doubt, had in mind letting someone know he needs to lose weight or that her singing voice sounds like a banshee with a bad head cold or that he makes people happier when he leaves a room than when he enters one. In most of the world, FYI, it is not considered a lie to tell someone you enjoyed her three-bean casserole when, in fact, you tossed it to the cat the minute she left and the cat wouldn’t touch it, either. It is considered a kindness. Would it be kinder to let the cook know the truth?

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). But before it does that, the truth usually produces red-faced rage or at least squirm-in-your-seat discomfort. How does the liar, the cheat, the bandit, the control freak change unless confronted with painful truth? Every stanza of 1 Corinthians 13, the beloved “love chapter,” pulses with the judgments of truth. Anyone who has tried to love knows it.

And anyone who has cared for a child or mate or comrade or country knows the difference. If you love each other, things usually go much better at the point of crisis. Those keen to score more points or win a battle may have little interest in truth. Or the common good.

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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