As I said in “An Open Letter to Truth-Loving Christians,” Christians fall into two categories. Of course, there are many more than two, but for the purposes of this letter I’m addressing these two: There are those who want to stand for truth above all and there are those who want to have peace above all.
If you are in the former group, I’ve already written to you. This letter is for those in the latter group who would easily let truth slide because you so want peace with the person who is tromping all over truth.
I’ve read that those on the extreme political right and those on the extreme political left have more in common personality-wise with each other than those who fall in the middle. Maybe that’s why political enemies often admire each other. They understand and respect the compulsion to stand for what they believe no matter how much opposition they get.
But peace-lovers fall somewhere in the middle. If you are in the peace-loving group, you may find truth tellers hard to live with. They are often so zealous for truth that they trample all over everyone in their fervor. And it may not matter so much to you which end of the truth they are on. You just want everyone to get along. And there’s the rub.
Now I’m not advocating extremes. I definitely love the middle ground. But the peace-lover needs to figure out how to stand for truth in that middle ground.
Jesus is a good example of that.
He certainly loved peace because he said things such as, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). And “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). And, most directly to the subject, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
But he also stood unequivocally for truth as he made clear in passages such as his prayer for us in John 17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (17) and “for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (19). So obviously Jesus wanted us to know and stand for truth. And, of course, he stood for truth so completely that he died for it. In his crucifixion, we see the truth-loving and peace-loving sides perfectly unified. He would not waver in truth, but he would not strike out at those who defied truth. Instead, he gave himself sacrificially and became the ultimate peacemaker.
If you are peace-loving, you probably appreciate that but don’t really want to emulate it. You can understand a sacrificial commitment to truth, but it makes you nervous. You’d rather play it safe and make sure everyone is happy.
As I mentioned in the article to truth-tellers, the most important truth that we should all be communicating is the main truth Jesus cared about communicating—the truth that he was the Messiah, the Savior, the only way to God. Every other issue pales next to knowing Christ and making him known. When Christ talked about truth, he was talking about himself. He addressed other issues, but in all of them he was pointing to himself. If we are going to overcome our peace-loving nature enough to stand for truth, we must remember he’s what truth is all about.
What does that mean for your everyday life? When your coworker makes fun of Christians, do you laugh nervously or at best just keep quiet? Saying something would put you in his line of fire, and you’d rather not do that? Maybe, you tell yourself that you’ll just live your life well and your coworker will someday realize that he’s been wrong about Christians all along because he so admires your life. But does he know you are a Christian? Have you ever taken a stand so that he knows Who to attribute your good behavior to?
Or perhaps you have a family member who isn’t a Christian. You’d love to tell them what Christ means to you, but you are so fearful of alienating them that you never get around to it. You may try to do it covertly by leaving Christian material around or by posting a Christian quote on your Facebook page, but you don’t ever really explain what you mean by that. The desire for peace in your family outweighs all else and truth falls by the wayside.
So how can you overcome your all-encompassing desire for peace enough to stand for the only Truth that matters? Keep in mind the following:
1) Most people today have not clearly heard the claims of Christ. They have heard a lot of Christians talking angrily about issues and a lot of sound bites about Christianity, but they really have no idea what all of that means. Just because you are surrounded by those who believe as you do, remember that outside the Christian circle, most have no idea what you believe and why.
2) You are the best person to share Christ with others. Because of your peace-loving nature, you will be able to share truth in a way that others can easily hear it. That doesn’t mean they will necessarily embrace what you are saying, but they are more likely to listen because you will communicate care for the other person. Your peace-loving soul will show through and soften the other person to truth.
3) You can counteract the angry rants of other Christians. If you don’t speak out, the radical and often angry people are the only ones who will be making a stand. That means that those who don’t know Christ will only hear about him from those who express truth in an alienating way. You can bring balance and joy to a message that others may otherwise tune out.
So, ask God for the courage to do what doesn’t come naturally—standing for Truth. But do it with all your gifts for peacemaking. It’s a winning combination.