Monday, February 21, 2011

The Naked Truth

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak
or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

-- Acts 4:18

The Emperor’s New Clothes is one of the most familiar and beloved short stories by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. We read that there was once an emperor whose life revolved around fashion. This ruler even had a stylish outfit for every hour of the day. So it happened that two swindlers – claiming to master weavers – arrived at the castle. And they assured the chic emperor that they could tailor a unique suit of clothes for him from the magnificent cloth they would weave.

The emperor agreed to the frauds’ terms and gave them an extravagant down payment to begin their work. Eager to learn about his outfit’s status, the emperor sent his prime minister to inspect the “tailors’” progress. Much to the prime minister’s surprise, he found only empty looms. But he was afraid to reveal his ignorance when the conmen asked for his thoughts about the fabric’s vivid colors and pattern. The prime minister replied that he was very impressed with their craftsmanship. And then he complied with the tailors’ new demands for more money and gold thread to complete their work.

“Is not the cloth magnificent?" asked two high government officials when the emperor came to view the progress for himself. "See here, the splendid pattern, the glorious colors," they proclaimed. Each pointed to the empty looms. And each thought that the others could see the material. "What can this mean?" said the Emperor to himself. "Am I so stupid? Am I not fit to be Emperor? This is disastrous," he thought. But aloud he said, "Oh, the cloth is perfectly wonderful. It has a splendid pattern and such charming colors."

And he nodded his approval, smiled appreciatively and stared at the empty looms.

The day soon came for the emperor’s grand procession – the celebrated occasion when His Majesty would reveal his new suit of clothes. As he walked by, the emperor’s subjects could only gasp at the spectacle. Silence enveloped the room. But no one dared to proclaim the remarkable sight before their eyes. Finally, a little boy pointed at the emperor and stated the obvious.

“Look!” said the youth. “The emperor has nothing on.”

Although written more than a century ago, Hans Christian Andersen’s tale says much about our modern society. The story’s well-intentioned characters followed the popular (politically correct) path and told the emperor what he wanted to hear. But it took a naïve child to reveal the naked truth.

It’s a lesson for every Christ-follower. For too long, many in the church have turned a blind eye as society accepts the world’s deceptive if-it-feels-good, do-it message. Watch almost any television show or movie these days and you’ll see destructive behaviors and lifestyles that God expressly condemns. Adultery and other illicit relationships, for example, are no longer considered scandalous. And if Christ-followers refuse to compromise their biblical principles and dare to speak out, they’re likely to be scolded as being intolerant, bigoted and narrow-minded.

Of course, God’s Word reveals no change regarding illicit behaviors and the destruction they render. But just as our ancestors did centuries earlier, too many today are willing to turn their heads and accept the “anything goes” activities of others… including those of some in the church. “If no one says anything,” they reason, “maybe everything will be OK. We don’t want to offend anyone.”

As Christ-followers, compromising God’s truth for bankrupt worldly philosophies is never an option. It’s when we’re convicted to convey His true Message in both words and deeds – regardless of its unpopularity or consequences -- that we take another step toward making a real difference in the world.  

No comments: