Perceptions . . . Perceptions . . . Perceptions
In a viral social media age, it can be rather difficult for individuals to handle the assaults which come as a result of sharing the truth. One of the arguments I have stumbled across on more than one occasion is that we as Christians are responsible not only to share truth, but we are also responsible for how the other person reacts to the truth we share. In other words, if I denounce a ravenous ideology like critical race theory and get labeled a racist by people who are offended, then without a doubt, I must have done something wrong. Essentially, the argument is that we must not only share truth but take responsibility for how others respond, no matter how gracious and clear I was in my presentation. Thus, often the emphasis ends up being placed upon the response of others instead of upon truth. It becomes more important for us to appear nice and friendly as opposed to proclaiming that which is biblical.
A quick note of clarification is needed at this point before critiquing this entire line of thought. Christians are called to be humble and exercise grace in their speech. The Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the church in Colossae said:
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. -Colossians 4:6
Consequently, if you are sharing the truth with an angry, hateful, and “I am better than you” spirit, then you need to repent. That point is quite different from saying that you are responsible for how people react to your sharing of truth. Our intent and duty as Christians is to share truth and to do so with grace and humility. We must proclaim truth out of a heart of love for God and others.
Paul and Jesus
As to this idea that Christians are responsible for how people react to the truth, I have a major question for those holding this view. Where does the Bible say that we are responsible for how others respond to the truth? There is no passage whatsoever that says we are held responsible for another person getting upset with us because we shared the truth in love. The Apostle Paul was thrown in jail for speaking the truth:
At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison -Colossians 4:3
The reaction Paul received to preaching the Gospel was not favorable. In fact, if you read Acts 19:21-41, you will see that Paul had men so mad at him because others were being converted that they started a riot. Question: should Paul have just sat down deciding to be quiet so that others would not be offended by the preaching of Christ crucified? No! Paul kept going to different towns preaching the saving message of Christ. The chief priests and scribes were so enraged at Christ to the point that they sought to kill Him (Luke 22:2), and He was eventually crucified later to rise again. If you are held accountable for how people react to you sharing the truth, then Paul and Jesus were absolutely horrible at proclaiming biblical doctrine.
What then should we do?
At this point, I have stated we as Christians do not want to go around acting like arrogant idiots conversing with others in an unloving manner. However, we cannot overcorrect and fall in the other ditch, saying we are responsible for every person’s reaction to our teaching of the truth, that would be unbiblical. Both of these errors are present dangers for us, and we need to be wary of not exhibiting either of them in our lives. How then can we move forward faithfully proclaiming the truth in obedience to Christ?
First of all, we need to check our motivations and make sure that we seek to proclaim biblical truth in service to God with a heart of love for others. Truth proclamation should be motivated by a heart set on fire with great love for the Lord, for His Word, and for the salvation and discipleship of souls. It is actually unloving to let someone believe a lie without telling them. Imagine a father allowing his child to take a drink of a beverage that he knows has poison in it just because he does not want to offend them? That would be an act of great evil. The most loving action he could take is to ensure that child does not drink the deadly substance. So also whenever we see someone believing a false Gospel, holding to unbiblical teaching, or acting immorally, the most loving step we can take is to shine the light of Christ’s truth on that error, with a view towards their eternal good.
Secondly, we should proclaim truth out of humble hearts knowing we were once lost in sin and are only redeemed by Christ’s blood. Scripture says:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. -1 Corinthians 6:11
This truth prompts us to humble courage when sharing the truth. We can be humble because Christ has set us free, and it is by His work alone we are saved. However, we can also be courageous because truth is founded in God, not ourselves. Because we love God, we must declare the truth, for to do otherwise is displeasing before Him.
Finally, I would urge all of us to go out and proclaim the truth in obedience to Christ, letting Him be in charge of the results. Be loving, humble, compassionate, courageous, and bold in your proclamation. If you are called names and receive slander, let it be for the reason that you are speaking that which is true. Know that Christ and the Apostles also received persecution for speaking the truth. So long as you are faithful to Christ and are persecuted for His name, rejoice that you have been given the opportunity to suffer shame for the name of Christ and press on even more for His glory!