“They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.”
– Matthew 22:15-17
Garry R. Morgan in Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day said fundamental Christians are known more for what they are against, and I shook my head for the thousandth time.
When I debated a Christian friend online on a sin issue, I couldn’t make him say outright that a particular sin was wrong. I couldn’t make him say what he meant, and instead got lost in words that felt as if they were crafted to be careful rather than brave. And when I read several Christian blog posts during Chick-Fil-A Wednesday, I couldn’t believe how some condemned people for standing for free speech and marriage.
A war we can’t avoid is being fought, and the person we crucify is the one who stands for something in a culture where no one stands for anything. We Christians are only known for what we stand against, because that’s how the media paints it to push us against a wall, using words like, “Don’t Judge me,” to duct tape our mouths. Jesus doesn’t need to be made to seem more accessible. He doesn’t need a fancy public relations team. His Word is enough, but love without truth is just a hippy smoking pot.
Truth without love is a baseball bat slamming into your windshield. Those jagged cracks are the damages that were done.
“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” – 2 Corinthians 4:1-3
It’s important for a Christian to stand for something, using concise words. The right words can form good relationships even between a liberal and a conservative or an atheist and a Christian. It’s all about if we first invited the Holy Spirit into the conversation. That’s what happened between a friend and me.
Our friendship was a month old. Each Sunday morning, she told me her story a little at a time; her pain thick like glass, voice trembling as she spoke. We met for coffee two weeks later.
I had an agenda. God had pushed me a long time to meet privately with her and talk about her relationship with Him. The topic would make things awkward and it meant I would have to talk about when I, too, lived in that sin. Because it was at the prompting of the Holy Spirit and I had prayed all week about it, the results from that conversation made me rejoice. In our culture, some don’t see anything wrong with some sins and to correct them in either teaching or in conversation is to offend people. The Christian church is full of sinners, including ourselves. It’s the Christian friends who speak truth in love and it’s the teachings of that church which help to mature a Christian.
Even someone living in sin can make things right with God. He’ll change us. I like C.S. Lewis’ words on this subject:
“I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience et cetera doesn’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of his presence.” – C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942
When a Christian is silent, the devil rejoices. We have a responsibility to live like we believe in an authentic and forthright manner. Many a person struggles with sin and have family members and friends who entertain sin in their lives as if it’s normal. They were taught by a culture, even a Christian culture, some sin is okay, while others are not right. Every day that I interact with people I am learning when to speak. When speaking won’t change what they do, I revert to prayer for that person and myself. After all, we have no power to change anyone so we might as well be friendly while holding firm to our beliefs. Love and truth go hand-in-hand. One cannot be present without the other.
Give examples in the Bible (old and new) of when people stood for something when it was unpopular.
This post was food for thought for me. To be honest, I get tripped up over the “truth without love” or “love without truth” bit. I think it’s a Christian catch-phrase and it’s often used to justify speaking harshly or speaking about the actions of nonbelievers and SAYING it’s in love but not showing any grace or love at all. I *think* I agree that you can’t rightly give love without truth, but for me, the love I give is because of the Truth I know. I don’t know that I can *give* truth so much as I can love people hard and well and let Truth settle into once-hard hearts that I believe can only be opened because of love.
I don’t think Jesus was weak on sin, but from what I can tell scripturally, he addressed sin with love and forgiveness first. It was only then that the Truth (along with the Holy Spirit) could settle in to the deep places and transform. I found this to be true for me… in what drew me to Christ… and I’m afraid that speaking out so fervently about what we are against as Christians only puts the “truth” part of that equation first…. “And the greatest of these is love.”
I’m not at all disagreeing with your post or anything, just commenting on how muddy it can be to decipher what it really looks like, in light of the sin of an unbeliever, for example, to practically offer love and truth without making a judgment call on their behavior first and foremost (since I believe Scripture tells us to love first).
Great response, Cara!
When Daniel continues to pray three times a day towards Jerusalem, he is thrown into a den of lions, much to the distress of Darius. After an angel shuts the lions’ mouths, Daniel is delivered and the corrupt officials and their wives and children thrown into the den where they are devoured instantly
Love that story.
One of the most miserable nights of my life was when I neglected to continue in conversation with a friend who wasn’t doing right. God wanted me to speak. Turned out, after I heard her story, she wasn’t doing wrong after all. But God wanted me to ask about it, to mention it instead of change the subject or ignore it altogether. I was miserable because I didn’t do (say) what God wanted me to say—because I was afraid of offending her. But what might be perceived as unloving/offensive could be the most loving thing I could do. I’m totally with you on your statement about love and truth.
God has a way of making us listen.
Our silence is often a death sentence for people caught up in sin. If we don’t speak out, then we are complicit. We are conspirators, quietly cheering their downward spiral.
I especially appreciate the 12 Step method of talking with people about habitual sin. At Laity Lodge and The High Calling, we do a lot of work with 12 Step groups. Step 12 is “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs…”
The biggest failure of Christians is that we too quickly speak to the sins of others without first sharing our own sins. I am very cautious about correcting another person about sins that are not difficult for me.
Thankfully, God has allowed me many other struggles which I can share with others as a starting place for talking about the damage sin has caused in my own life.
Marcus, great response. Would you write a guest post on this for my blog? email@example.com
Amen and thank you for being bold! We read and hear and speak all the scriptures about “judging not” and in our quest to love we leave others sinking…
Oh my gosh, Nikole, I didn’t know you wrote this because at first all I saw was the title, which drew me in immediately. Wow, what a dynamic post and full of truth. The media is going to paint the picture they believe, and the public is going to see the version they believe. God’s word stands all on its own. We do have to speak up, but as you say, on those occasions when we do we must involve the Holy Spirit and allow the truth to be infused with His love. Again, you had me at the title….cracked me up!
LOL. I had to talk to Dan about the title before I submitted. LOL. Always good to hear from you, Lori!