Speaking the truth has never been difficult for me. I’ve never been awkward about speaking my mind or been timid when asked my opinion.
Rather, I have had to learn to speak with gentleness and let grace lead the way. Which might be easy for some people, but I’d rather just rip the bandaid off and move on.
Jesus has taught me a lot about being gracious. About being an advocate for truth, but in a way that brings peace and not turmoil.
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Have you ever been picketed? I have. Years ago in Louisiana, a group of protesters stood outside the venue and shouted at the people in line that our music would send them straight to hell. So, I went and I talked to them. I said, “Hey guys, how’s it going?” “Well, you’re playing the Devil’s music, that’s what’s going.” Meanwhile, they were busy shouting at girls in line telling them that they were dressed like whores of Babylon. I said, “How do you feel like this strategy’s going? Screaming shame and guilt at everyone?” He goes, “It doesn’t matter. We’re telling them the truth.” I said, “The truth?” He said, “The truth.”
I said, “Do you guys sing Amazing Grace at your church?” He said, “Well of course.” I said, “You know that was a poem that John Newton wrote and that melody we sing, that didn’t get applied until years later. In fact, some historians think it was a popular bar tune of the time. But, the people singing it didn’t demonize the tune. They tried to redeem the tune. Isn’t that nice?” He said, “That’s a lie straight from the devil.” We didn’t make a lot of progress…
But, that interaction did remind me of what Paul said to Timothy. That methodology matters. He says, “Correct your opponents with all gentleness.” And I looked up the Greek and it turns out that it means… “With all gentleness.” Which means, what we say matters just as much as how we say it.
To be completely honest, stories like these make me really sad. Or maybe mad? Whatever the case, Jesus is being misrepresented in these moments and that’s not okay with me. Yelling at people and calling them names, isn’t Christ-like. People take personal preferences and hold them up as ultimate truth. Or in some cases, proclaiming actual truth but in a way that pushes people away.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the truth offends. At our core, we don’t like the truth, it lights up the dark areas of our hearts and exposes us. However, if what I say is offensive to someone let it be because of the what not because of the how.
There are three ways I find it helpful to hold fast to truth while being gracious in presentation:
1) Know and Reflect Truth
Before we start to throw truth darts at those around us, we should really inventory our own hearts. We might think our motive is true and our words are correct, but it would be wise to take a moment to reflect. In order to share truth, we must know truth. To search God’s Word and hide it’s truth in our hearts helps us know truth more fully.
As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person. – Proverbs 27:19
If we aren’t being honest with with ourselves about who we are then we are blind to our own sin struggles and weaknesses. Each one of us to prone to selfish motives and prideful postures. We must reflect truth and believe truth so that we can speak truth in love. Being honest about who we are has a way of humbling us.
2) Pray Truth
So many times, we underestimate the power of prayer. We only tap into it when we are facing hard times or have a Christmas list of desires. Instead, we should be constant in prayer. Asking God to lead us in every conversation, especially the hard ones. Instead of picketing at people, pray for people. The Spirit will lead you, all you have to do is ask. When we are lead by the Spirit and not by our own ideologies, then God can use us to bring Him glory and mirror His grace.
3) Be Patient in Truth
It’s easy to think that once truth is shared, that’s it. But it’s not like putting popcorn in the microwave and within minutes, it’s done. Rather, each person plays a role in the process. Maybe you planted a seed or maybe you watered a seed that had already been planted, no matter where you fall within the process, it is God alone who makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). All we have to do is be faithful in obedience and wait for God to do His thing.
“…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” – Ephesians 4:15
Approaching someone with truth and doing so in gentleness, all starts with your own posture. Meaning, what is your purpose for sharing? Is it to bring healing and grace, to show kindness and love so that truth can be planted into a persons heart? Is your motivation to be faithful to Matthew 28:19 and make disciples.
Or is your motive to be right? To play the role of the Holy Spirit and bring conviction to people? To make people feel shame and to enforce your own preferences?
If it’s the latter, then you will hurt so many people. You will misrepresent Jesus, the One who loved perfectly and literally embodied truth. Never having one without the other.
So, I pray that this encourages you to speak up and to share truth, don’t shy away from the hard conversations. But, do it in such a way that makes people wonder why you’re different. To be marked by love and not hate.
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