Imagine you’re sitting around in someone’s living room, chatting about general things, and somebody asks you a question about a topic that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe they ask you if you think marijuana should be legalized. Maybe they ask you about marriage rights for gay couples. What do you tell them? How do you respond in that circumstance?
I’ve seen folks react in a couple of ways. Some gracefully change the subject. Some use it as an opportunity to get on a soapbox (liberal or conservative, both are similar in many ways). Most hem and haw and awkwardly give a noncommittal answer that could be taken as either positive or negative, depending on how you look at it. I’m afraid I have to admit to being in that third category most of the time.
I’m a feeler. An introvert. I don’t like conflict or controversy. I want everyone to get along, and–most importantly–I want everybody to like me. So in those circumstances, I generally try to change the subject.
Why? Well, honestly, it depends on the arena. Are you in someone’s home talking pleasantly with people you don’t really know? Or are you hanging out with someone you know well? Are you in a classroom at school where the point is to listen to a teacher? Or are you in a small group environment where you’re encouraged to share your opinions?
I think arena has a lot to do with it, but when you get right down to it, if someone asks you for your opinion, shouldn’t you tell the truth? Shouldn’t you be honest about what you believe and why, regardless of how people react? Or is telling the truth too dangerous to risk all the time?
Today’s verses are Acts 24:14-16.
But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.
This passage comes from one of the history books of the Bible, Acts, the early history of the Church. Paul has been arrested and brought to trial, accused of troublemaking and stirring up riots. If you’ve got a bit, you should read the whole chapter.
A group of men are accusing Paul of things they can’t prove–untrue things. Paul’s defense is simple, calm, and composed. Not angry. He doesn’t rant or rave. He doesn’t make it about himself. He just states the facts.
Regardless of our environment, I truly believe that as Christ-followers we are called to be truthful in all our dealings. If someone asks us to weigh in, we need to be honest.
If you know someone is in a relationship that isn’t pleasing to the Lord, and one of the people involved asks you for your opinion, you have the duty to be honest with them in the name of Christ.
If there’s a situation where you work that you’ve been asked to give your perspective on, you are responsible as a follower of Christ to speak truth.
Don’t lie and say nothing is wrong when something is. That’s the easy way out. That’s the coward’s way out. Christ-followers are not called to be cowards. We are called to be bold and courageous, fearless and strong. But don’t get the idea that gives us the right to be bullies either.
In all things, we are to be Christ like, and that means meekness. Quiet strength. Speak truth, yes, but speak it in love. Don’t tear people down. Don’t rip people apart. Don’t pin blame. Don’t use your words to hurt others.
Maybe you want to. Maybe you even feel justified. Maybe everyone around you would even tell you that you’re justified. But you’re not. Nothing gives you the right to tear another person down with your words. If you are a Christ follower, no matter what anyone does to you, your job is to forgive them and love them. Period. God will handle the justice.
I think Paul understood that. His comment about trying to live with a clear conscience before God and all people? That’s how I want to live. I don’t want to live with regrets because I said something I shouldn’t have. But I don’t want to live with regrets that I didn’t speak up when I should have either.
So if you’re called to speak, be honest. Just remember it takes more courage to be meek than it does to be mean. Speak truth in love. Don’t make allowances for wrongdoing or injustice because you’re afraid of repercussions. Don’t take the coward’s way out. Stand firm, be gentle, be honest.
Your conscience will be clear because you will have honored God with your words and your actions and demonstrated that you love the people around you the same way.