If I tell you the sky is blue on a bright summer day, you will probably agree. But there may be some out there who simply disagree. In their world the sky is purple or pink or chartreuse. Years ago, we would have recognized that this is a wrong answer. But now, we are supposed to give credence to any answer. No one is wrong. In fact, the greatest sin you can commit is to tell someone they are wrong.
We can see how this belief that there is no absolute truth has eroded the culture to a point of what I believe to be no return. The world we live in and the world that is our future (if the Lord tarries) will not be the world we grew up in. That is becoming clearer every day in a myriad of ways.
But this belief is also eroding the church. We can see this when someone points out error according to scripture and the messenger is attacked rather than the error dealt with. In the minds of most Christians, which have been molded to worldly thinking, it is more wrong to point out the error than the error itself. This response happens so often to those who stand for the truth and there is so rarely support or defense from even like-minded Christians, that eventually those who speak up often lose courage and just stop. The attacks are just too painful to bear alone.
And so I want to address this problem from both sides today. From the side of the hearer, as well as from the side of the speaker of the truth. How should this actually work from a biblical standpoint? Both sides have responsibilities if the Church (all believers) is to function well. And all of us should find ourselves on both sides on occasion. (May we never be found only a hearer or only a speaker. That right there will lead to serious dysfunction within the church body.)
According to scripture the hearer has some responsibilities–
➊ We are to test all things. No matter what it is, we are to test it and determine if it is true or false (I Thessalonians 5:21).
➋ We are to avoid those who teach a doctrine contrary to what we have learned; we are to abandon anyone who would not be teaching the truth (Romans 16:17).
➌ We are to recognize that there is but one true Gospel and that, sadly, many are trying to pervert that Gospel, yielding a multitude of false gospels. We must keep our eyes open and be a bit of a skeptic when something is called “Christian” (Galatians 1:6-11).
➍ We are to compare all things to scripture, following the example laid out for us in scripture by the Bereans (Acts 17:11).
➎ We are to be humble and teachable and willing to hear what someone has to say before getting defensive (I Peter 5:5).
➏ We are to recognize that God gave some the gift of discernment –literally the ability to distinguish between the spirits– as a gift to the Church; we should be thankful for this gift and pay attention when they are brave enough to speak up (I Corinthians 12:10).
➐ We are to be kind and loving to the speaker, even when we don’t agree with them. A Christian sibling speaking something we don’t like or don’t agree with is not our enemy (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
➑ We must recognize that it is our duty to protect the truth and that sometimes we must call out and break from those who call themselves a part of us when they show themselves to be wolves in sheep’s clothing; not all who claim to be Christ’s are genuine (I John 2:19, Ephesians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 11:14).
➒ Even if we don’t feel knowledgeable or brave enough to speak up ourselves, we should offer support to those who are; we must love and protect and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who stand for what is right (I Peter 1:22).
According to scripture, the speaker of the truth also has some important things to consider before we ever open our mouths (or set our fingers to typing)–
➊ We must be humble and teachable and, in fact, even more so as we try to correct or call out those who are in opposition to the truth (2 Timothy 2:25).
➋ When addressing false doctrine and false teachers, we must stick to the facts of actions and words, rather than attacking the person of whom we are speaking (Titus 3:2).
➌ We must acknowledge that we don’t know everything (this goes back to being humble but it is SO important that it bears repeating). We dare not be wise in our own opinions. Arrogance is just…ugly (Romans 12:16).
➍ These things that God has opened our eyes to should break our hearts. We must have so much grace for others, constantly remembering our own sinful hearts and always remembering that “but for the grace of God, go I”! (I Corinthians 15:10).
➎ We must speak and act in love always, understanding that if we speak up without love we are like sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (I Corinthians 13:1-3).
➏ We are to love those who just can’t see. Those who are blinded and have set themselves up as our enemies. The saddest thing of all is when these come from within our local churches and sometimes even our families. The pain of this can be almost unbearable sometimes and yet we must choose to love (Matthew 5:43-44).
➐ We must forgive. We dare not grow bitter or hold a grudge against someone who has treated us unkindly or condescendingly. This will yield very bad fruit–not only in our personal lives but also within the church body (Matthew 6:14-15).
➑ We must continue to pray steadfastly. Praying that God would open the eyes of those who are blind (recognizing that He is the only one who can!); praying that He would give us wisdom when to speak and when to just keep quiet; praying that He would give us love for others that supersedes their treatment of us; praying for courage and boldness and fortitude to say what others are too fearful to say (Colossians 4:2).
We are ALL either hearers or speakers of the truth. Ideally, we are both of these things at various times. May we both hear and speak as scripture would have us do so. The world would tell us to get angry at and ugly with those with whom we disagree. It would tell us to speak up indiscriminately and without forethought. Basically, the world would have us do both things all wrong. We can see this all around us–on social media, by the water cooler at work, on the sidelines of athletic events, and anyplace the world hangs out.
If the world is doing it one way, we will want to do it another way. And that way is found in the Bible –where we can find clear principles for both hearing and speaking that will pave the way to purify, build up, and unify the Body of Christ.
P.S. The sky IS blue on a bright summer day. 2+2 always equals 4. And all babies are born as a girl or as a boy. Let’s not get caught up in the lie that there are no absolutes. It is a deadly lie that has many casualties. But that’s a post for another day…