Anyone, under the age of 50 and not raised in a home where dad worked regularly but finances weren’t good enough for the family to refuse government butter, will likely not appreciate this analogy. Socks, basic cotton socks, when worn regularly for at least eight hours at a time, lose any sense of comfort after they have been darned more than three or four times. When the thread is tied it gathers, irritatingly, right where the toes bend. After enough darning, the socks are shortened so much they can only be worn if you scrintch your toes up. I suspect that the heavier dark line most socks have across the toe was first meant as a failsafe line for darning socks no further so as not to risk permanent deformity of the feet! There is no doubt. The truth about darned socks is darn uncomfortable!
Most Americans no longer darn socks. Most probably have no idea what the term means. Discarding what is used and lightly worn, replacing it with something new is the theme of our society. Few things are irreplaceable or so it seems. One of the casualties of our penchant for pitching out the old for something new is our ability to discard the uncomfortable truths of our day. When there is something particularly invasive to our individual sense of privilege, we simply discard it and replace it with a new truth. Many people have found a way to make their opinions sacrosanct and inviolate. They proclaim tolerance as long as no one ever dare claim there is an absolute truth. Christians have become the target for all those who avow tolerance as their moniker, refusing, of course, to be tolerant of those who follow Christ.
In a recent book review published in National Review (Nov. 2019), Madeline Kearns makes a most authentic argument. “But where telling the truth becomes impractical for the many, it becomes moral duty for the few – those who are not answerable to compromised hierarchies.”[i] The moral duty of the few is to hold to the truth, no matter the consequences. Absolute truth does not change regardless of the centuries which have passed. In the very first century, Christians saw it as their moral duty to hold to the truth and they knew the consequences would not be pleasant. Whether the compromised hierarchies were a Roman senate, a medieval feudal king, an 18th Century privileged class, Russian czars of the 19th century, 20th century national socialists or the current days’ public demands for political correctness, adherence to truth remains our moral duty.
General Robert E. Lee, a graduate of West Point and commander of all Confederate forces during the American Civil War believed duty to be the most precious word in the English language. He is quoted, “Duty then is the sublimest (sic) word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more…”[ii] Ellen Sturgess Hooper, a poet and contemporary of Lee’s, though she lived only to the age of 36 wrote, “I slept and dreamed that life was beauty. I woke and found that life was duty.”[iii]
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th century English theologian wrote, “But, then, let me remark further, while there is this temptation not to declare all the counsel of God, the true minister of Christ feels impelled to preach the whole truth, because it and it alone can meet the wants of man… I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners that it is not their duty to repent of their sins or to believe in Christ, and who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatever but simply because he chooses to do so.”[iv] Spurgeon saw the threat associated with teaching only the parts of the Bible that were practical or comfortable under the current pressures of the culture. It was the duty of pastors to preach the whole counsel of God, not just what seemed practical or comfortable.
In our world today, political correctness is all the rage and those who enforce it the strongest rage vehemently against any who claim to know truth. Jesus posited “The truth shall set you free” as recorded in the book of John, chapter 8. Jesus was making a point to the religious leaders about their own slavery to sin and to know Him was to know truth and to be set free. The freedom Jesus spoke of was the freedom from sin’s grasp. We choose instead to be subject to and owned by the one who loves us infinitely and will only provide for our good. The one is Jesus Christ. His word is inviolate and immutable. That is, it is unaltered and unchanging. It proclaims certain actions to be sinful. However, those who proclaim what God’s Word teaches, the public of today says they and the church are unloving or uncaring. Like a set of darned socks, parts of God’s Word are just plain uncomfortable. It remains the duty of Christians then to learn how to hate the sin as God hates it and at the same time love the sinner.
One place where Christians often falter is that we believe it is up to us to perfect or clean up our fellow sinner when that is not our role. Ours is to love our fellow humans with a love which shows Christ and trust that God is big enough to do whatever work is needed in that person’s life as well as our own.
I’ve gone this far without any movie reference. Well, here it is. The movie is National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates. He paraphrases a section of the Declaration of Independence. “If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.” Christians living in today’s world, just like Christians living in every century since the 1st one, have the responsibility, the duty to take action when there is something wrong. Life is not a spectator sport.
Life as a Christian is not just one of active participation, it is one of being all in, with every part of your life. It does not mean we stomp through our culture damning all that is wrong and expounding why we are the only ones who have the truth. If anyone had the right to do that, it was Christ. We must live within our culture as Christ did within His. I believe it is one of the reasons God came to us incarnate, to provide an example of living life and loving others while going about the work of the ministry.
Few things are as uncomfortable as walking around in darned socks. In the first century they simply wore sandals, maybe that is the answer… except for those of us who live near or in the snow belt! Living life as a subject of the one who is Truth can sometimes be very uncomfortable. Maybe that is why Jesus gave a special blessing for those who are persecuted for His sake and when you are persecuted but have done no wrong. Still, we are not to be bulls in china shops with our faith, banging people over the heads with our Bibles. On the same token, we don’t just sit by quietly like a whipped puppy. We do have something to say in our society and as uncomfortable as the truth may be, when we speak it in love, God blesses. Those of us who have the ability to take action, have the duty to take action…Darn it!
[i] Madeline Kearns (National Review Nov. 11,2019) Book review: The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon on Whole Truth and Man’s Duty