My New Year’s Resolution: To Speak the Truth (Hopefully in Love)

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Recently my pastor posted a blog entry about Bearing False Witness.  It is about how some Christians feel it is okay to stretch the truth (or blatantly lie) when defending their beliefs – or condemning the practices or beliefs of others.  He ended the entry by stating:

We cannot not let a passion for the truth make it OK to not speak truthfully. God is never honored when we defend His truth by speaking falsely.

Because God does not lie and is always trustworthy we value the truth. As followers of Jesus, who called himself “the truth,” we must be a people of truth. This demands that we not bear false witness, but speak honestly and plainly of ourselves and others.

I will be completely honest – I ABHOR liars.  Lying is one of my top pet peeves.  But I haven’t really had to deal with people around me spreading blatant lies about others.  What I DO have to deal with is people who are unforgiving, bitter, hateful, and prone to running off at the mouth by saying any number of vile things about people they don’t like. 

People on both sides of my family.  People who claim to be Christians and claim to love God.  People who, as Ed says, “are quick to defend the authority of God’s word, but are not always as quick to apply what it say about lying to our (sic) own words.”  The same can be said for harboring unforgiveness, bitterness, and causing strife.

Ed also states:

John Wesley said bearing false witness is “speaking falsely in any matter” including “lying, equivocating, and any way devising and designing to deceive our neighbour,” or to speak “unjustly against our neighbour, to the prejudice of his reputation.” Of course it’s not always that men are out to ruin another’s reputation, but they care nothing of ruining another’s reputation in the pursuit of making their point.

My New Year’s resolution was inspired when I was sitting with family members and one of them started (again) harping on a perceived slight by another fellow Christian.  It has been MONTHS if not at least a year, but this person refuses to let it go.  They even went so far as to say they hoped this person lost their job.  Can you believe that??? 

I normally don’t say anything to any of the people in my family that are in the midst of their “woe is me, look how abused I am” tirades since it normally only makes things worse, but this time I actually tried to gently admonish this person by saying, “Now, now.  You are supposed to speak the truth in love.”  Their response?  “I am.  I would truthfully LOVE for him to get fired.” 

Wow.

I grew up surrounded by that type of bitterness and unforgiveness from a professed Christian.  I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now.  But I sure have struggled with it myself.  It is hard not to, when it is all you are exposed to.  I guess the light bulb finally went off when I really, truly realized how low Christ stooped for me, and how I have absolutely no right at all to hold something over someone else. 

But enough of what I think.  Here is what God says:

Proverbs 4:23-24:  Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you.

  • Proverbs 6:16-19:  These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feed that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
  • Proverbs 10:12:  Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.
  • Proverbs 10:19:  In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
  • Proverbs 11:9:  The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
  • Proverbs 12:1:  Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
  • Proverbs 12:15-16:  The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.  A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.
  • Proverbs 12:18:  There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.
  • Proverbs 16:18:  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
  • Proverbs 17:1:  Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  • Proverbs 20:3:  It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.
  • Proverbs 21:9:  Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.
  • Proverbs 21:23:  He who guards his mouth and tongue finds life, righteousness and honor.
  • Proverbs 24:17-18:  Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles:  Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.
  • Proverbs 24: 28-29:  Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, for would you deceive with your lips?  Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done for me; I will render to the man according to his work.”
  • Proverbs 25:28:  Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.
  • Proverbs 26:12:  Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.
  • Proverbs 26:27:  Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.
  • Proverbs 27:19:  As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.
  • Proverbs 28:25:  He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered.
  • Proverbs 29:1:  He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
  • Proverbs 29:11:  A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.
  • Proverbs 29:20:  Do you see a man hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.
  • Proverbs 29:22-23:  An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.  A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.

God doesn’t mince words.  The majority of Proverbs deals with sins of the heart.  That is where most people struggle the most.  Sure, we don’t murder, commit adultery, or steal.  But we sure can be as hateful, proud, slanderous and spiteful as the best of “sinners.” 

Which do you think is more hurtful to God?  The sinner sinning in the open because he doesn’t know better, or the Christian sinning in his heart, even though he does know better, but just doesn’t care to change?

“Yeah, but that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.  Okay, so what does the New Testament, specifically Jesus, have to say?

  • Matthew 5:3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Matthew 5:7:  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
  • Matthew 5:9:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
  • Matthew 5:21-24:  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgement.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.  Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
  • Luke 6:27-31:  “But I say to you who hear:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.  And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
  • Luke 6:32-36:  “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.  For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
  • Luke 6:37-42:  “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you:  good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

A devotional in my Bible that goes along with Proverbs 26 has this to say:

Solomon warned:  Beware of negative people who can hurt you.  The fool, the lazy, and the gossip bring nothing but damage to your life.

If you can’t help them change, detach yourself from people with a negative attitude.

Put the brakes on gossip this week.  Squash it like an intruding spider. 

I want to have the courage to stop slander and gossip when I hear it, but I want to make sure I do it in love.  I don’t want to replace one sin with another (self-righteousness).  I want to quietly be able to say a verse that addresses the issue, and leave it at that.  And if necessary, I want to have the courage to leave the room.  If the person gets mad at me, so be it.  That is something that they will have to address with God (or not).

I could go on and on and on.  But I’ll end on these kickers:

Luke 6:43-46:  “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  For every tree is known by its own fruit.  For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

John 13:34-35:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Matthew 22:37-40:  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  One these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

I John 2:3-11:  Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.  By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked. 

I John 2:9-11:  He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Ephesians 4:25-32:  Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  “Be angry, and do not sin”:  do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

People who somehow think they are too good to forgive others obviously do not realize just what exactly it was that Christ did for them.  Boy, is that something I need to remember the next time I get my feelings hurt. 

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