Why Speaking The Truth Isn't Optional
If you've been in Sunday school at any point in your childhood, you've probably heard something like, "Watch your words," or "Don't say anything that Jesus wouldn't say." Maybe your parents have told you, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life or death will be the result of every single thing we say - and we'll reap the fruit of whatever seeds we plant with our words. Also, Matthew 12:37 says that by our words we'll be justified and by our words we'll be condemned.
It's so important to make sure that we're not saying the wrong things and that we're choosing to remain silent when the words we're about to voice would tear down rather than build up. But it's equally important to speak the right things - not just to refrain from speaking the wrong things.
I can think of more than one instance when I felt the Holy Spirit gently and clearly nudge me to speak a hard truth to someone out of love. Rather than being obedient in those particular moments, I'm sad to say I began thinking about the ramifications of speaking the truth. What will they think of me? What if they don't want to be friends anymore? What if I'm wrong?
God addressed this very issue with his prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel was a messenger of God who was tasked with warning the people of Israel about the coming judgment for their sins. In his mercy, God wanted to provide them with an opportunity to change their ways and avoid that judgment. This warning, this opportunity, was Ezekiel's task. He was to boldly speak whatever the Lord gave him to say, regardless of how radical it seemed to him or to the people listening.
To help Ezekiel understand this task entrusted to him, God gave him an analogy of a watchman at the gate of a city.
If an army comes against a city to attack it, the watchman will see the army approaching first because he has the best view, or vision, of what is coming. His job is to blow the trumpet and warn the inhabitants of the city that they should take whatever measures necessary to protect themselves and get to safety. If the people don't listen and their lives are taken by the swords of their enemies, they alone will be responsible. But the watchman will have done his duty. However, if the watchman sees the coming danger but refuses to warn the citizens, that watchman will share in the responsibility of their deaths.
So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from my mouth and warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man,you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked manshall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. | Ezekiel 33:7-9
Did you know that as followers of Christ, we are called to be watchmen? When we are in Christ, we're granted access to the knowledge of God's ways (Col. 2:3). We stand at a vantage point in the Spirit to see what others who don't know him are not be able to see.
Because of this, we are called to speak the truth in love, with great discernment and boldness. In Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested for the bold testimony of Jesus on their lives. When they were released, they prayed with the church that the Holy Spirit would give them the ability to speak the word of God with great boldness.
In our culture today, speaking the truth can have a negative connotation. It can be perceived as a lack of mercy and love. But when God opens our eyes to see potential danger in someone's life, it is the opposite of love not to warn them about it.
Just as Ezekiel said really hard things to the Israelites - things that kept him from being accepted by his community - we're called to value the words and wisdom of God more than our own reputation.
We're called to love God and love people so much that we'll sacrifice our comfort and convenience for the sake of obedience to Jesus and for the sake of those he died for. We're called to live under the banner of the fear of the Lord, not the fear of man.This is the only way to embody boldness and bravery built on the unshakable foundation of God's love.
You may be thinking, I want to be bold in speaking the truth, but I'm not sure how.
The encouraging thing is we were never meant to do this on our own.When Jesus went back to heaven after being raised from the dead, he asked the Father to send his Holy Spirit, who would "lead us and guide us into all truth" (John 16:13), and who would "pour the love of God into our hearts" (Rom. 5:5). We can't do it without him, and thankfully we were never meant to.
There are steps you can take to invite the Holy Spirit to help you in this area of your life.
When Peter, John and the church in Jerusalem desired to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4), they prayed for it. Something changes in our spirits, in the atmosphere, when we lift our voices to God in agreement with him. In prayer, we are positioned to receive everything promised to us. The Father would never call us to a task without equipping us for it, and all we have to do is ask for his help.
Did you know that Satan knows scripture better than many Christians? His strategy is presenting a lie disguised as the truth - creating evil, empty counterfeits of what God originally created to be good. In order to identify these tactics, we must delve earnestly into scripture and become a student of the word - not just with academic knowledge as the goal, but with a desire to know God better as the Holy Spirit reveals to us exactly what his word means. When we know God's heart through his word, we'll be able to identify when scripture is being twisted to misrepresent his heart.
This is so important and often overlooked. We can get so focused on what we're saying, that we forget to listen to the voice of the Spirit and the voices of those who we're trying to rescue with the truth. First, we MUST clear a space in our lives for listening to God and guard that space at all costs. He'll meet us when we make a place for him. But in order to hear him speak, we have to intentionally clear out all the other noises in our lives (whether they are internal or external). Second, we must be willing to listen to others. We can't expect to be heard if we don't start by listening.
My hope is that we would be a generation that learns what it means to be bold and selfless in the way we love and speak truth.