There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the overweight person I could say,
“Why would you want to get fat by eating too much? Why wouldn’t you try and exercise some self-control and pull away from the trough of gluttony? It just seems to me that having a smaller backside is more favorable than having a rather large one. I mean, come on dude, size 33’s are better than size 43’s!”
Or I could say,
“What would it take for someone to not put their health at risk by eating too much? Self-control is difficult. I struggle with it in certain areas of my life. Overeating isn’t necessarily one anymore, but I could name other ways I give in to gluttony. When people surrounded me to encourage me in love, I am able to stay accountable. I want to live a healthier life, one free from having something else–food, money, success–rule over me. But it’s difficult, I get it. But I have to believe that in and by Jesus, it’s possible.”
(For the record I used to be overweight.)
Which one do you think is more gracious? Or if thats not the kind of question we like to ask, which one do you think is more effective in the ears of the overweight person?
There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the person caught in lie after lie I could say,
“Why would you want to lie and be a liar? Isn’t telling the truth the honorable thing to do? I mean, why be a no good, despicable liar, lying all the time? If you think about it, a liar is no better than a cheat or a thief. Just stop lying. Own up and grow a pair. Stop trying to prove yourself or protect yourself from your own stupidity and just tell the truth!”
Or I could say,
“What good is it to not tell the truth? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lied. Most of the time I lied out of a desire to save face, protect my own interests or just look better to the person I was lying to. But it’s wrong. Even greater, it’s destructive, not only to me but others around me. I can lose almost anything I own through a variety of circumstances, except my integrity. Yet when I lie or cover up the truth I choose to give away my integrity every time. The thing is, Jesus offers something greater. He offers a confidence that tells me that my identity and worth isn’t determined by you or someone else. No. My identity and worth is bound up in what God says about me in Jesus. That gives me freedom and hope.
Which one do you think is more gracious? Or if thats not the kind of question we like to ask, which one do you think is more effective in the ears of someone who is consistently dishonest?
There are many ways to speak truth, I suppose. To the person caught up in greed I could say,
“Why would you want to be a greedy, self-centered, stingy scrooge of a person? Hoarding things life your life depended on it is stupid. More, more, more, and more. No matter who you hurt, you have to get it–more money, more stuff, more approval–even if it means you have to reach out and just take it. You’ve got to get what’s yours, right? Its a dog eat dog world. Survival of the fittest, and all that nonsense. There has got to be more to life than being a selfish, inhuman, greedy person.”
Or maybe I could say,
“Its sad that many people set their entire lives toward accumulating more. Enough just isn’t enough anymore. I’ve been there. Many good folks fall into the trap of greed. The worst part is that its destructive. It can ruin you, you know? The human heart can easily become obsessed with the notion of “more.” Eventually “more” can take over and rule your life. Worse, it can ruin the lives of others, especially if someone is greedy enough to run over someone else to get what they want. I think that in our society its easy to subtly turn toward greed. But I can’t say its the world’s fault. Really, I am not sure how helpful finding fault really is. I think what we all need is a new heart filled with new affections and rooted in something deeper than what we do or do not possess. The best thing is that Jesus offers the world a new heart by proving that God made room in His heart for us.”
But there are many ways to speak truth, I suppose.
As I reflect upon my own life lived with Jesus I remember that it was His kindness toward me, despite me, that leads to repentance (relates to Romans 2:3ff). It still is. I could be wrong but I think people are drawn to a different way of life through love, not insult; through love, not judgment; through love, not belittlement. I think most people are drawn to Jesus by the truth being spoken in humility and bathed in love, not tongue-in-cheek or raw, unfiltered words. Paul and Peter, two of the bible’s most blunt folks had their own opinion about how we use our words.
Trying to reach a sin-stained, non-christian culture, Paul said this:
“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, or which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6)
Speaking to Christians suffering intense social and political persecution, Peter put it this way:
“And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God…” (1 Peter 3:13-18)
Our words matter. And so do God’s. He could have just settled for words, but instead the Word became flesh so that His words would carry greater power. Maybe one of the many things I can learn from the Incarnation is that sometimes my words must become flesh and dwell in the midst of those we are called to proclaim and demonstrate gospel. But if my tongue chases them away with unbridled words, then I will probably find myself with no one to listen. And if that happens, who did I “convince,” or what good did I really do?
Someone said to me, “Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, right is right, truth is truth.” I get that. And if I’m reading Paul and Peter right, and if I’m watching Jesus close enough, I think they might remind us that how we tell the truth matters. That too is truth. If we get the doctrine of Christ correct but lose the disposition of Christ along the way, well, we might be missing the point.
Given all the controversy concerning Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ Magazine, do you think there could have been a better or more gracious way for Phil to candidly express his beliefs?