Dealing Truth with Grace

Back from the weekend internet desert…

bq. Jim,
OK…now here’s the dilemma I find I get myself into…but I feel you can help me clarify this in my mind. I believe in absolute truth. And yet, in situations like you’ve described here, with the Hindu, (very similar to what I deal with on my blog in some ways with some of the visitors I get) how do you declare that your truth is absolute without offending them to the point that you can’t be agreeable? I sometimes feel like I don’t speak the truth plainly enough and yet, I do…I really think I do. I don’t know. Can you give me a word of encouragment about this…”#”:

Good question. Honestly, I think the way you would handle this is going to vary a bit, depending on your audience. To some extent, we have to do exactly as Christ instructed — declare our faith with boldness. Sure, this is going to offend some people, maybe even a lot of people, but Christianity is offensive to those who want to live life on their own terms. They don’t like to be told that the things they do and believe, that the way they have lived their lives is wrong and displeasing to an Almighty God. But the only way they are going to know is if someone tells them.

Now, this does not mean that we have to be harsh and cruel about it. Tact is a virtue. With people who are more understanding and not quick to anger, I am usually able to speak with a greater degree of frankness without having to worry about using exactly the right phrases and words to avoid stepping on their personal sensibilities. With people who are, in my opinion, more insecure, I try to speak openly and honestly about what I believe and why without using dialogue that is abrasive. Essentially, I share what I believe, that I hold that my beliefs are right and true and the _only_ way to live and believe, without trying to force anyone to believe as I do. I try to always make it clear that I can’t make anyone think the way I do and that I am not trying to. Part of this requires me to treat the viewpoints and opinions of others with respect, even if I disagree, and if I can poke holes in their arguments, I will do so (even though this is not usually well-received). But part of discoursing about what is truth and what is not requires people to talk and share and pick apart each others’ arguments.

One of my favorite philosophers is Francis Schaeffer, and it was his ministry to tear apart the inaccurate philosophies and worldviews and demonstrate why those philosophies could not be held with any kind of consistency. He showed time and again how the philosophy of the Bible was the only one that could be adhered to consistently. Yet, he was not ‘offensive’ about it, _per se_, though he offended a great many people by demonstrating the untruths of their philosophies.

It is impossible to live the Christian life well without offending other people. Christ said that we would be hated by the world for our beliefs, and we see this every day. But it is possible to have agreeable discourse with those who disagree with our beliefs. Really, I think the biggest part of attaining this is maintaining respect for people who disagree. Those Christians who lose respect with the world and who find they cannot minister effectively are typically those who treat the world with condescension and snide behavior. It is impossible to share Christ when you make yourself better than Christ.

6 thoughts on “Dealing Truth with Grace”

  1. Pingback: Willful Grace
  2. Wow. Thanks. I REALLY appreciate it. I think the place where I was having doubts was in my care to be respectful and use non-abrasive language (which I’m always conscious of) when speaking about the more sensitive issues I sometimes discuss on my blog. For instance, I know for a fact that openly gay people do not like being referred to as homosexual and I do what I can to respect that. Much of it is just a matter of terminology. You can say the same things but be more well-received if you are willing to be respectful and knowledgeable of your “opponents” feelings as you do so. Thanks so much for your insight!!!

  3. OH…and in addition to that….while I may have an opinion about their reluctance to be referred to as “homosexual”, sometimes my opinion is just not important to the discussion at hand…at least my opinion about every little thing. It’s important, I think, to know when to remain silent…just as much as you have to know when to speak.

  4. Passing thought….as someone who was turned off by her own faith for many years (often by other “Christians” and televangelists), and just recently turned back on. Be a light in a dark place….how often have you heard that phrase as a Christian? But it could not be more true. Being kind to people, being honest, being fair, doing the right thing even when it stinks to do so….that is far more of a witness then bowling people over. We live in a world where white lies have become truth, and lies have become negotiable. Doing the right thing even when know one but you knows you have….like Hannah in Samuel. No one but God knew her promise. She could have kept her son, and none would have been the wiser….but she knew, and God knew, and she did what was right, even when according to society, she didn’t have to. That is an incredible witness, even to the most skeptical of faith. No amount of words could have brought me back….it was the understanding and quiet faith of one woman who let me be who I was, gave me the respect of my pain and experiences, who finally helped lead me back to the fold. And she didn’t even know she had done so until I told her. I guess in a nutshell – it is who we are that is our witness, not just words that sound good.

  5. I couldn’t agree more, Arielle, and thanks for your thoughts on the subject. We live in an age where talk is cheap and where actions really do speak louder than words. It’s part of why I think it is so important to really live the Christian life as Christ intended, rather than as man (read ‘Christians’) intends. Doing the right thing and living consistently is the strongest we as Christians have, especially when there are those who say they are Christians who constantly sully our reputation.

Have anything to add to the conversation?