“Take care then how you hear” (Luke 8:18).
IF THE GOSPEL HAS A PREREQUISITE, IT IS THAT WE MUST BE WILLING TO HEAR IT. The process that the gospel was meant to initiate can go no further if there is anything that filters it out of our thinking. Whatever else it may be, the gospel is a message, and like any message, the gospel requires not just a hearing but a fair hearing.
First, we must be open to being persuaded. No amount of evidence will be enough if, deep down, we are simply unpersuadable. The adage is true: there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. So we must be “easy to be entreated” (James 3:17 ASV) or “open to reason” (ESV). The gospel won’t have a chance if we don’t give it a chance. So how open are we? Will prejudicial filters block the gospel out of our hearts? Are there any up-front limits on how far we would follow Jesus if the gospel is true?
Truth demands from us two qualities of character: honesty and courage. The question “What is true?” has to do with the facts. Getting the right answer to that question requires honesty. But the more important question is “What are we going to do with the truth?” Responding to truth takes courage, and here is where we stumble. When the truth calls for a difficult response, we hide from it, as Adam and Eve did following their sin (Genesis 3:8–10).
There are two different truths we must hear: the sinful truth about ourselves (the gospel’s diagnosis of our malady) and the saving truth about God (the gospel’s plan for our restoration). The second will mean little to those who have rejected the first, and the first is extremely uncomfortable. Confronting our sinfulness is painful, but the truth can’t save us if we’re unwilling to face the problem. Without the bad news, the good news will not be good.
Above all, we must guard against defining truth in terms of what we want the truth to be. Without recognizing it or admitting it to ourselves, we often reject ideas as untrue when there is no objective reason to do so. We simply don’t prefer them to be true. But the truth is what it is — regardless of our preferences. And the more painful a truth may be to accept (at least in the short term), the more we must be adventurers — going wherever the truth leads us.
“The truth is not always what we want to hear” (Jewish Proverb).