This week’s Friday is for Friends comes from Matt Edwards, at Believers Fellowship in Gig Harbor.
I have a question regarding loyalty and the third way.
One of the prominent attributes of YHWH in the Old Testament is His hesed, translated “steadfast love,” “faithfulness,” or “lovingkindness” by various English Bibles. Essentially, the word means something along the lines of “faithfulness” or “loyalty,” and it is often extolled as a virtue both of God and of godly people. For instance, Deuteronomy 7:9 speaks of YHWH showing hesed to those who keep His commandments. In Ruth 2:20, Naomi blesses Boaz for showing hesed to herself and to Ruth. YHWH is loyal, and YHWH’s people are expected to be loyal.
The third way seeks to move beyond the polarities of liberalism and fundamentalism. This is a noble goal, but one of the things that has troubled me about taking “third way” positions is that I feel I have betrayed my conservative upbringing. Godly men and women loved me and poured their lives into nurturing, educating, and raising me. Most of these men and women are passionately not third way. By rejecting their extreme positions, am I rejecting my roots? Am I failing to act with hesed?
In his book, Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells the story of a young boy who is asked in class whether his father often comes home drunk. By answering, “yes,” the boy may be speaking facts, but he is not speaking the truth because he is betraying his father in the process. Bonhoeffer writes:
It is only the cynic who claims to ‘speak the truth’ at all times and in all places to all men in the same way, but who, in fact, displays nothing but a lifeless image of the truth. He dons the halo of the fanatical devotee of truth who can make no allowance for human weaknesses; but, in fact, he is destroying the living truth between men. He wounds shame, desecrates mystery, breaks confidence, betrays the community in which he lives, and laughs arrogantly at the devastation he has wrought and at the human weakness which ‘cannot bear the truth.’ He says truth is destructive and demands its victims, and he feels like a god above these feeble creatures and does not know that he is serving Satan.
As usual, Bonhoeffer doesn’t pull any punches with the rhetoric. But I like his ethic of loyalty. Our pursuit of “truth” is more than just a pursuit of “the facts.”
As we seek the third way, how do we balance the pursuit of truth with an ethic of hesed?