Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"As followers of Jesus Christ, we want the words that flow from our hearts and out of our mouths to"

That's a quote from today's installment from Our Daily Bread. It's worth reading. The New Testament passage on which it's based is Ephesians 4:25-32:
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

These words from God's Word imply, among other things, that we are both to lovingly tell others the truth about the reality of our sin AND the truth about Jesus, Who brings forgiveness of sin and everlasting life to all who believe in Him. 

Whether we tell it to those who are part of the Christian family or to those not yet experiencing the new life that only Jesus Christ can give, everybody needs to hear and to be reminded of the truth that "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We also need to hear and be reminded that:
the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets [that is, by the two major strands of Old Testament writings], the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood effective through faith...[God] justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
God's call and command that we who follow Jesus "speak the truth in love," also means, in Martin Luther's words in his explanation of the Eighth Commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" that:
We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.
I don't mean to imply that the sort of truth-telling to which believers are called is in any way possible to do when we rely on our own will power or strength of character. The self-reliant can never, in the guts of everyday life, experience the truth of the promise of Jesus that "with God, all things are possible." 

In the face of derision and the pressures of "political correctness," we all would rather do almost anything than speaks God's truth...and usually will. 

But we can tell the truth and come back to the truth that Jesus calls us to tell and to live when we rely on God. God-reliance will always empower us to to be the people that self-reliance only deludes itself into thinking it can achieve!

When it comes to sharing the truth about sin and forgiveness, about life and death, about heaven and hell though, we Christians are all to be proclaimers of the truth

Some will be called to tell it from the pulpit. Others are commissioned by Christ to tell this truth while kicking back with friends in those conversations that, as conversations with good friends always do, drift into the subjects that really matter. 

We Christians who withhold the truth about Jesus, that He is, "the way, and the truth, and the life," from our neighbors--even the "neighbors" in our own homes, the "neighbors" with whom we watch ball games, shop at the mall, share cubicles at work, or have a drink--are not fulfilling our sacred obligation or experiencing the unique joy that comes from telling others about Jesus. 

In that sense then, every Christian is commissioned by Jesus, in a sensitive and caring way, to be a preacher of the good word--the good news--about Christ. Paul puts it simply in Romans: are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are hey to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?...not all have obeyed the good news [that is, believed in the gospel that life and forgiveness come to those who repent of sin and entrust their lives to Jesus Christ]; for Isaiah [the Old Testament prophet] says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?' So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of the Lord.
Beyond this special and important truth, we are to tell all truth to others, not in a desire to hurt, but to build up others. When tempted to "tell the truth" about those we dislike or who dislike us, those whose integrity or intelligence we may question, and anyone with whom we may be angry or not in sync, the Ephesians 4 passage tells us that we should consider a great option: Keeping our traps shut. This is true whether we're speaking to them directly or when speaking to others about them.

By all means, when we have conflicts with others and the cause, the relationship, and the stakes are important enough to us, we should lovingly "have it out" with the other person. Otherwise again, we should keep our traps shut.

It's passages from God's Word like Ephesians 4, that make my daily prayers of repentance so long!

They're also the reason behind one of my most frequent prayer requests. In many situations I face, I ask God to cause me to speak the right words and to keep the right silences and to know the difference. And I find that when I trustingly get out of God's way, God answers that prayer.

That's how I know, by the way, that God does impossible things: I've learned that God can use an imperfect sinner like me to bring His life to others. If that's not some sort of miracle, I don't know what is.

No comments: