Many years ago there was a young woman. She was deep in love and her soldier was far away. He was stationed in a deeply hostile area and communication was impossible. She hadn't talked to him for months and she was buckling under the weight of it all.
So very far away her man was aching hard for her. He'd had enough and crept across the dark jungle, crawling through swamps and under razor wire until he finally reached an outpost. And after some begging and bribing, a sympathetic sergeant let him place a call.
Every night she would sleep lightly, hoping to wake at the first ring. Her days were a strange orbit around the phone. When life beckoned from outside her doors she would resist its pull. But days she was drawn away she would make her sister promise to take his message and tell her soldier she would return very quickly. Six dreadful months and no call. She tried to imagine her hero, her lover, brave and bold and selfless. But long nights fear crept in. She wondered if he was even alive.
Six months without her voice and his mind was a worse war. Enemies without faces but names he knew too well. Depression, loneliness, fear, despair. And now the phone was ringing and with one word she would silence all those demon voices.
Ringing and ringing and then a voice. But not hers. A strange electricity and a rush of pain but he pushed the words out. Is she there??? His voice hungry and shaking.
Just then a mortar exploded a half a mile away and the line was lost for a second. He spoke quickly, forcefully, with six months of longing bleeding out.
"Tell my wife I love her. Tell her I am safe because her love keeps me alive, gives me reason to survive. Tell her she is my very heart. She is my every thought and all my waking dreams. Tell her all of hell could not keep me from coming back to her."
Another mortar explosion. Closer. The line crackled and cut again for a moment. He spoke quicker and with desperate urgency. Trying to unravel six months of thoughts and say only the most important things.
"Tell her I miss her all the stars and moons and every world. Tell her all the books in all those worlds cannot contain all my heart has to say. The sum of all their languages does not have the words to express my desire for her. Tell her everything I said. Every word. Tell her when I see her I have so much more to say!"
Then the line went. He stared at the receiver. Relief flooded him and a strange peace of release. He snuck back across enemy lines to his post ever more resolved to live, to find a way back home to the women he was in love with.
She burst through the front door. Before she set the groceries down she yelled to her sister. "Did he call?" Expecting the "no" she always got, the "yes" hit her in her chest, a mortar of stronger sort. Breathless and trembling she asked, "What did he say?" The words hung like ghost speech in the air. Thin and gray. She felt everything. Aware of every atom.
She dared not breathe. She stared at her sister as her lips parted in slow motion to speak.
"He said when he got back there were things he needed to talk to you about."
There is a way to tell the truth, to say exactly what has been said, and yet betray the very heart of that truth. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul reminds the believers there to speak the truth in love. Paul knew all too well that the heart of the gospel could be divorced from the truth of it. He had experienced the depths and heights of a loveless religion, he had murdered for truth's sake because he did not have love.
When those who call themselves Christians, be they preachers or laymen, speak the truth without love they are like the sister of the bride who breaks her heart with the very words her lover has spoken. And though it was all true, it murdered the heart of what he had said.
Jesus has said much to His bride. And every single word of it was blood-drenched in love. And whenever the emotion of those words is twisted by the "the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" it is the worst of what religion does. When the words of God are manipulated to control or punish or leverage Christ's bride I think He takes notice. I think His anger flares up and I think He will have His heart heard at all cost. In fact, that is exactly what happened. Centuries of loveless religion and controlling through fear led Him down the loneliest most brutal road. Where He went to war, gave His life freely, was crucified ruthlessly, crossed enemy lines and then came back to say to His bride....
"Your pain, your isolation, your fear cannot keep me from you. Your doubts I will never return cannot keep me from you. Even death can cannot keep me from you!" "I will come for you!" He yells over the war of the world. "I will come for you" He sings over His bride. "I will come for you my love," he whispers by His Spirit in us. "And soon!"
So to everyone who would dare to speak for God. Would dare to comment on the meanings, the motives behind His holy words...please, please, speak the truth, but only in love...
Or don't speak at all. Jesus is a jealous lover. His bride is His life. He will take care of His girl. That's a promise. His promise.