What do you do when you know you’re right about something, but others perceive you as being strict, pushy, fussy, persnickety or just plain wrong?
In an age where we have unequal distribution of folks who are “politically correct” and folks who won’t varnish the truth, we may quickly find we are in the minority when we decide to speak up for Jesus.
To begin with, fewer people believe in absolute truth, while an increasing number find that they are uncomfortable with “black and white” because they see so many “grey areas”. For people who find the truth to be as slippery as an eel, it may be that they decide to tell the truth “attractively” – tell a “little white lie” so as not to look bad or hurt someone’s feelings.
Children, for the most part, start out telling the truth about what they see. They are taught not to say things like: “You’re fat!” or “What’s that big black thing on your face?” As a matter of fact, most parents take their children to task for blurting out words that embarrass them or hurt others, but too often they teach them to tell an appropriate “lie” rather than to hold their tongues.
In an age where image counts, our children grow up to become consummate consumers who know how to get what they are “entitled” to have. Their own happiness ranks highest in priority, and they learn very early how to become masters at manipulation.
What if we spent time helping our children learn as much (or more) about their faith as they do the “stars” of their favorite kid shows? What if we daily modeled standing up for the truth of Jesus Christ in all our activities, and showed our children that we are not afraid of the world’s opinion on the subject?
The wavy lines of a mirage on a desert road can appear to contain water – until you get up close and see that it was just a reflection of the heat waves on the asphalt. Clouds that accumulate next to a mountain can look very promising to a drought-stricken land, but too often they remain near the mountain – teasing with the promise of rain – until they quietly recede and disappear as if they’d never been there.
Truth is not a mirage – it can be hard, and sometimes uncomfortable, but it yields something very real that satisfies our souls. Truth is not a cloud without water, but it waters our dry and thirsty souls. Jesus said we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free. In a world where truth is optional, how do we grasp that elusive virtue? In a social climate where telling the unvarnished truth can result in prison time, how can we comprehend the freedom Jesus was speaking of?
The first place we find truth needs to be within our own hearts and minds. If we cannot face ourselves and take a personal moral inventory, then we are certainly not qualified to judge anything else. We may lie to others or hide the truth (commission and omission) about us, but we must at least admit to ourselves the nature of our short-comings and character flaws. This sort of work is best done in prayer to God, because He is the witness to all our thoughts and words in the first place; there is nothing we can say or do that is a surprise to Him. Every thought, every deed, is open before Him. But Jesus said that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When God cleanses us from unrighteousness, He also cleanses us from the effects of sin – its fallout, and its messes. We are made free from sin, and then become able to tackle the job of learning how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Cindy worked in a mail room, sorting out letters and packages for a large corporation. She knew a lot about the comings and goings, who was corresponding with whom, and which companies were in negotiations with her own. Though she signed a confidentiality agreement on the day she was hired, she became swept up in the office chatter about a merger that was going on. Cindy couldn’t resist being an “authority” on the subject because she “witnessed” the fact that there were packages (could be requests for proposals) from a company that was rumored to be part of the deal.
Word got around that Cindy knew about the merger, and eventually she was called into her manager’s office to explain. Cindy had choices: admit she engaged in gossip and broke the confidentiality agreement, and risk losing her job, or lie and say that someone must have misunderstood something she said because she would NEVER break her written agreement to keep confidentiality.
What would you do in such a situation if you were Cindy?
Most people would counsel Cindy to lie and deny so she didn’t lose her job over one indiscretion. Few would say that she should admit what she did and take her “lumps”. Most would feel that this was a minor incident and perhaps too much was being made of it.
Situation ethics tell us that if no harm was actually done, then Cindy can lie and deny and learn a lesson from her mistake. No harm, no foul.
But what if her gossip got back to the head of the company that was trying to keep the merger a secret, and subsequently fouled the deal? Or what if the company she thought was going to merge with hers was NOT the company that was in negotiations with her firm, but the real prospective partners got wind of the gossip? Now the stakes are high, and repercussions are directly attributable to Cindy’s actions. Harm has been done, and a deal has deal has been fouled. Does Cindy deserve to lose her job because of her indiscretion?
Moral questions are often difficult to deal with, but if we have been raised with some sense of the difference between right and wrong, we usually know what the right answer is. Those who have a strong moral compass are more apt to choose the truth over a lie, even if it hurts.
It’s not so easy to decide how to handle standing up for the truth in a climate that states “truth is in the eye of the beholder” and not all need necessarily hold to our truth in order to be right: they may hold their own truth, even if it is diametrically opposed to our truth.
Even as Jesus, the Messiah – who called Himself the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life – stood before him in chains, Pontius Pilate famously asked: “What is truth?” In that same way, there will be times when we, as followers of Jesus, must stand before a lost and broken world as witnesses of the truth even when it is not popular.
When I was a teenager, I was zealous for Jesus. I shared Him with anyone who would listen to me. Often I was mocked and ridiculed, and one day I saw my name written on the bathroom wall: “Cathi Covert is a Jesus Freak!!” I took it well enough – it stung that someone had written about me on the wall, but I was proud to suffer some minor persecution for my Lord’s sake.
Later, as a young adult, I often went out with a team of brothers and sisters in Christ to evangelize the people of Palm Springs, California. We were spat upon, cursed, and almost put in jail with a man whom the police were arresting for drugs. We counted it all joy to go through these experiences because we loved Jesus.
Throughout my life I have been presented with opportunities to share my faith boldly; I have learned that if I expect it of myself, others will expect it from me as well. I have been in foreign countries where I was given the opportunity to be just another “humanitarian aid” worker, or to give my reason for service as a cause to glory in Jesus Christ! Though some people were nonplussed by my explanation, most were at least gracious enough to receive my help without castigating me for the underlying motivation for my actions.
As you look back over your life, can you pinpoint times when you could have, or should have shared Jesus with people? Are there opportunities to go back and have a do-over? Are there people who are part of your every-day life who don’t even know you are Christian? Are you ready, instant in season and out of season (as Paul said) to give an accounting for your faith in Jesus Christ?
Faith, like charity, begins at home. Our families are our first and closest mission field.
I’ll never forget leading my Nana to Christ before she died. Her father was a Methodist minister, but she confided that never in all his years of preaching had he ever asked her about her own soul. She asked: “Did he think I’d get it by osmosis?”
We can never assume that because our children, brothers, sisters or spouses go to church with us, that it necessarily follows that they have their own living faith in Christ. Though we may risk their ire or sorrow, we should always talk to them about Jesus; it is important for their souls and for strengthening our own faith. Love demands that we not take their salvation for granted, and we learn how to overcome objections as we practice with those we love most.
It has already been demonstrated that some people consider it a hate-crime to read the Biblical prohibitions against sexual immorality and other sins. A day is coming when that will be common, and we will need to be ready to take a stand. We cannot live our lives in fear of it, but we must prepare our hearts to tell the truth no matter what the consequences may be.
Job said: “That which I feared has come upon me.” Sometimes we allow vain imaginations to carry us away as we project into the future what will happen if we stand up for Jesus. But it would do us far more good to live each day as if it is our last day on earth, and to remember that we don’t need to know ahead of time what we will say because the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say at the right moment.
If we strive to hold onto our lives, along with the good opinion of others, we will lose our lives – even our souls; if we purposely and intentionally live our lives for Jesus Christ, then even if we lose our physical lives, we will not die the second death, and we will gain everlasting life in Paradise with Jesus.
It starts with one step, one prayer, and faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. Any of us can stand up for Jesus if we will just trust Him for the outcome.