Posted by: richard | 27 November, 2007

Words: Are they our bond? (2/2)

Last night we tackled questions of honesty and integrity. Funny how on one level Jesus’s teaching on oaths seems less challenging than Jesus’s other words (on anger and lust, for example). I wonder if we deceive ourselves on this issue more than the others.

The first application we discussed is quite straightforward. Let’s not cover up our real intentions with flowery – or religious – words, and be people who mean what we say, and do what we say.

The second question was what about the risk that truth hurts other people needlessly? The article linked to in the comments to the previous installment on this blog gave some helpful advice: firstly, truth should be relevant; secondly, truth should build up, not tear down. In other words, our words must be guided by love first and foremost. In the case Robbie suggested – what happens if in the second World War you were asked by Nazis whether you were hiding Jews, then it would be right to protect the Jews. To put it another way, if we are ever economical with the truth it should be to protect others and not to protect ourselves. But this is a fine line and we could so easily convince ourselves that we want to protect someone’s feelings when in fact we are trying to protect ourselves from embarrassment or from rejection. Any time we deviate from truthfulness I suggest we need to do so prayerfully and carefully.

Why is this important? Well, firstly because dishonesty can backfire and cause more hurt than was expected to be the case, and secondly because our integrity is our basis for witness in three ways:

  • In being truthful, we reflect the character of God and bring welcome salt and light into a cynical word who fears everyone is twisting truth for their own benefit (often for reasons of money, sex or power)
  • If we shirk from telling the truth in minor situations to protect ourselves in some way, we are sure to shirk when the situation is more important. For example, I would suggest that our courage to speak the truth of the Gospel is linked to our courage to speak truth in the smaller areas of life. So by getting in training in the smaller things we will become more courageous speakers of truth in the big things.
  • Our integrity is a key part of our credibility when we do have important things to communicate – such as the Good News! If people know that we don’t manipulate situations or distort the facts with our words, if they know we are not trying to do a sales job on others, then when we speak of God we will be listen to more respectfully. So our integrity is the bridge upon our words of witness travel.

So we need to pray that we will be people whose words are guided by love and expressed in truth, even if this is costly to ourselves. Given we seem to avoid speaking painful truths, I think we need to pray that our lips be guided by the Father, and we think before we blurt out the wrong thing.

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