What should the Christian expect when we are called to speak truth? An inevitable reality is that Christians will always be caught up in controversy if indeed, they ascribe and hold fast to an Orthodox approach of the Bible as the infallible, trustworthy, and authoritative text of scripture that was breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). It’s obvious that the Bible makes claims about various areas of religious, theological, spiritual, and moral life, as well as political, societal, and family life. All these areas, for the Christian, are informed by truth.
The truth, through the Spirit, guides and teaches us (Jn. 16:13). The truth reveals darkness and sin in our hearts (1 Jn. 1:8). Truth is a part of our armor against Satan (Eph. 6:14). The truth sets us free (Jn. 8:23). The truth sanctifies (Jn. 17:17). The hard truth about truth–more precisely, the controversial notion about truth–is that it divides (Jn. 14:16; Lk. 12:51). Truth is inherently controversial.
As Christians, when we are born again, the Spirit of Truth fills us up and begins to dwell in us (1 Cor. 12:13). This must have some external implications, right? As we live as members of the world, our citizenship from heaven will be evident (Jn. 17:14-16; Phil. 3:20). Simultaneously, not only will we stand out in our actions regarding societal norms, but also in our speech and thought as we continually grow to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
Before I go further, I must say this: When we speak the truth, it must be in love, otherwise, it is vain, useless, and a distortion of what our true assignment while here on earth (1 Cor. 13:1-3). It should be seasoned with salt, ready to win over our opponents by graceful, gentle and kind communication (Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15). We should be honest during conversations, always ready to expose our weaknesses. If it’s regarding complex issues we are not well-read on or have not thought about deeply, we must be willing to exercise humility and come back to engage in more fruitful discussion. Truth and love co-exist and must never be offered as mutually exclusive of one another.
Much of what the Christian believes is controversial. The Christian stands opposed to all falsity, and in light of this, controversy inherently arises out of our interaction with those who do not share the same worldview.
We believe that there is one God. We believe that there are a heaven and a hell, and depending on what we do with Jesus, there is a final outcome that will take place in reality. We believe that science is not the final authority, but the Bible is. We believe that there is a framework set-up by God regarding sexuality and gender. We believe that all we do should be God-honoring and God-glorifying. This affects how we treat the environment and how we interact with entertainment and technology. We believe that there is a rightful foundation necessary in order to ground any and all moral objective truths and values. We believe that abortion is wrong. We believe that at conception there is a human soul that God is weaving together in the womb of a mother which bears His image.
These topics find themselves as controversial in the public domain primarily because the world has replaced their inherent knowledge of God as the foundation of all things with a lie, the destructive axioms of relativism (Rom. 1:25).
As we speak the truths of scripture we inherently bring controversy into the public domain, not because we will, but because it wills to divide. When we come shining the light and truth of scripture into the world through our speech it will no doubt turn heads, but, in most cases, it will do more.
In Acts, when the truth was proclaimed by Paul in Ephesus, it caused a riot. Paul stood boldly for the truth, as we should, instructing men and women to give up their idolatrous ways.
“For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, ‘Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.’…When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel” (19:24-29).
This is a clear example of what it looks like for truth to stir up controversy. When we share the Gospel, riots may not occur, but the reality is that we should have an awareness of what the truth entails. The truth shakes people into responsiveness; sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Nevertheless, controversy, as Christians, is something that should make us shrink back. We must consider every opportunity to speak truth in the lives of the people around us as a gift from God, even if it ruffles feathers and disturbs the peace. Remember, Jesus came to divide, in grace and in truth, and in like manner, so should we.
This is not a call for Christians to go out into the world and get into spirited arguments of destruction. This is a call for us to be conscious of what we offer in hopes of generating boldness in the midst of a crooked generation.
Followers of Christ must also realize that people of diverging convictions and worldviews are not the enemy.
Charles H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon on the sabbath morning of January 11, 1857 titled, “The War of Truth.” In it, he said, “this sacred, holy war of which I speak, is not with men, but with Satan and with error. ‘We wrestle not with flesh and blood.’ Christian men are not at war with any man that walks the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the persons of infidels we love and pray for; we are at war with any heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the knife with everything that opposes God and his truth: but towards every man we would still endeavor to carry out the holy maxim, ‘Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.'”
May you be encouraged if you find yourself having to set foot into these difficult conversations as you stand up for life-bringing truth. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”