Sounds outrageous? Please let me try to explain.
These things I write … so that you might know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the support and seat of truth (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Paul is writing to a young minister who has a pastoral service to perform. He warns Timothy of the untruths that people love that must be corrected; he gives some instructions regarding public worship; he outlines the characteristics to look for when considering men for eldership or the diaconate.
Paul does all this, he tells us, so that the church might fulfil its role in the world: to hold up truth and to be the place were truth sits.
If the church is the support and seat of truth, this tells us that the church is not the source of truth. Truth comes from elsewhere. The truth that the Church is to hold up is that which God has revealed in the Bible. Of all places, the church is to be the place where truth stays in the driver’s seat.
The church is to be all about truth. The truth of Jesus Christ – son of God, son of man, who for our salvation lived and died and rose again. This gospel calls for repentance and faith. Repentance means we are brought to a very different way of thinking. Faith means we receive that message of mercy that God has supplied. To this message we are to trust our lives. We can only be brought into the church of God by his grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why I think that the church must not have ‘being nice’ as its first priority.
‘Nice’ is not the same as telling the truth in love. Niceness is not the same thing as grace. ‘Nice’ is what people like, and, whatever people actually like in a world twisted by sin, it is not truth.
In our present age, the church in general, seems to want to be liked. It wants to be thought of as a nice place to be. The question that the church must ask continually is what sort of effect does its attempts to be liked, to be nice, have upon the its primary role of holding up and being the seat of truth.
Obviously, the church is to show to the world love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. These things come to the church as the Holy Spirit takes the word of God and applies it to the church. The church is not to pick and choose the things it says from the Bible so it might appear ‘nice’. It is the whole counsel of God, as revealed in the Bible, that the church is to uphold and put in the driver’s seat, even those things that might not appear nice.