Proclaim the truth bravely, and leave the results up to God:
The other day I penned a piece on how the Christian must be willing to speak truth – even to non-Christians. I said that too many believers want to make excuses for sin and sinners when instead we should be confronting both. Sure, we must speak the truth in love, but we must speak it.
One fellow sent in a comment saying that too often we believers come across as wowsers and Puritans and killjoys and all the rest. Part of my response to him included these words:
All of God’s holy prophets and apostles and so many Christian leaders – including Jesus himself – were smeared as Puritans or Holy Joes and so on. So what?! Pagans will always hate God and righteousness, and will always hate those who seek to represent a holy God in an unholy, sin-soaked world. I would far rather be accused of being a ‘Puritan’ (a foolish, pejorative slur word anyway) than let sinners slide straight into hell because I did not want to hurt their feelings, offend them, or appear to be a “wowser” and so on.
Sure, there most certainly is a place for some wisdom and prudence in how we speak – and when. Sometimes silence is the best and most godly answer. And yes, sometimes we ARE belligerent and overbearing and self-righteous, and so on. But as with most things, we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater – we must not stop speaking the truth because some people speak it incorrectly or unlovingly.
Once again, I am not saying we can just say anything in any way. Care and prayer is needed. But having said all that, truth will ALWAYS offend those who hate the truth. That is a fact of life, and that is something we find throughout Scripture and throughout church history. Truth WILL get people angry.
As an example, most of the Old Testament prophets were told by God ahead of time that the people would NOT listen – but they had to go and speak truth nonetheless. The people would get real angry and reject the prophets, but the prophets must keep on going and speak. As God told Ezekiel:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. (Ez. 2:3-6)
Other warnings given by God in advance to the prophets about how the people would reject them and their message (but they must fearlessly proclaim it anyhow) are found here:
Deuteronomy 31:16-20 Moses
Isaiah 6:8-13 Isaiah
Isaiah 30:8-12 Isaiah again
Jeremiah 7:21-29 Jeremiah
Ezekiel 2:3-8 Ezekiel
Ezekiel 3:4-9 Ezekiel again
They were told to go and proclaim truth, regardless of the reception, regardless of the reaction. And we need to do the same. As I say, truth will always be offensive to most folks and to dare to proclaim it will get plenty of folks real upset, no matter how winsome and “nice” and graciously we seek to proclaim it.
Speaking of which, the other day a person called me, wanting me to delete some old comments she had put on my website. In part she was worried they might adversely impact her chances of getting a new job, and in part because she said they may have been a bit too harsh or strong.
I told her a few things in response: I now and then get such requests; I am not normally a fan of deleting comments; we really should have the courage of our convictions; and deleting comments is really putting up the white flag of surrender, and giving the other side just what they want: our silence and capitulation.
I also told her I thought her comments were perfectly acceptable. There was nothing nasty or rude or crude about them – she was just stating the facts. But in this case I told her I would delete them for her. As to her saying she thought she used to be too hard or judgemental or sharp in how she said things, I replied to her as follows:
‘There was a man who was completely and utterly loving, gracious, prudent and kind. He always spoke the truth and he always did so out of love. Yet so many people hated him for doing this and sought to kill him. I refer of course to Jesus. So no matter how nice or kind or winsome we try to be, many will still always hate you for speaking truth. It can’t be avoided.’
Having mentioned Jesus and the negative reaction he got from so many, let me share some commentary on all this. It comes in the form of a sermon preached by John MacArthur some 22 years ago. Called “Jesus: The Divine Truth-Teller” it is based on Luke 6:1-5. This passage is about how Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath:
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Here are a few quotes from that sermon:
Jesus attacked the religious establishment because they were the damners of souls, because they offered people the false solution, the deceptive lie, the ultimate delusion that God is pleased with you when He’s not. And so He attacked that system. And every time there was a point of conflict He exacerbated it. It was almost as if every time He made a wound, He poured salt in it. It started from the very beginning to be so….
And it wasn’t just general. It wasn’t that He just spoke in generalities about what was wrong with the system. When He had an occasion to meet with Pharisees or scribes who were the leaders of that system, He confronted them face to face. It was really intolerable for Jesus to attack the system. It was even more intolerable for Him to attack them. But that’s what He did because they were the purveyors of that system.
Why did Jesus do that? Listen to what I say: because divine truth was more important than anything else. Did you hear that? That may be the most profound thing I’ve ever said. Divine truth is more important than anything else. And you know why Jesus always escalated the conflict? Because He always spoke the truth….
Jesus didn’t escalate the conflict by being insensitive. He didn’t escalate the conflict by being ungracious. The conflict escalated of itself because He spoke the truth. That’s the issue. And every time there was conflict, instead of trying to relieve the tension, instead of trying to lower the hostility or ease the conflict, He escalated it. He advanced it. He agitated it. He increased it by always being absolutely truthful….
They were wrong about the Sabbath and Jesus was concerned about the truth. And so the truth He literally dropped like a bomb in the middle of their Sabbath mentality. You see, what Jesus was doing — you see this all through this — He was forcing people to choose. He didn’t come in and say, “You know, we’re going to preach the gospel but we’re going to get all these various religions together and, you know, you kind of…we all kind of have a lot in common.” Jesus came in and said, “Here’s the truth, this is the truth, this alone is the truth, everything else is a lie, make your choice. You choose the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of humility, the gospel of repentance, the gospel of grace, the gospel of faith, and not spiritual pride, self-righteousness, merit and works.” https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-69/jesus-the-divine-truthteller
Yes, speaking the truth will divide, it will infuriate some, it will turn off many, it will stir up all sorts of toxic responses. But as God had told his prophets, including Ezekiel: “Whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.”
Yes, we are not infallible, inspired prophets like those of old, but we do have a divine commission to speak truth and not worry about how others will take it. Telling people the truth is the most loving thing we can do, so we better do it.