Loving Our Enemies

For the past several decades, the Church culture in America has focused the topic of our enemies as coming mainly from within ourselves, keeping the focus on our own sins, our own failures, our own weaknesses, and our self-esteem. This coincides with the culture at large when the subject of “self-esteem” became a hot topic back in the 1980’s and 1990’s (see article published in 2017 titled, How the Self Esteem Craze Took Over America and Why the Hype is Irresistible,” at this link). However, when dealing with the subject of our enemies, there is more involved then our own internal focus on ourselves and our self-esteem.

In a series of articles and video teachings titled, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil,published by Bridgetown Church in Portland, OR, the article opens with the following statement:

For millennia, apprentices of Jesus have spoken of the “three enemies of the soul” – the world, the flesh, and the devil. But all three have dropped out of the conversation in the modern, western church. So often [as] we struggle to experience the life God has for us and our world, there’s a sense of opposition and push back and even violence, from within and without. This ancient paradigm has the potential to unlock a new sense of victory and freedom and growth in our life. (Quote source and list of series of videos and teachings at this link.)

For the purpose of this blog post, I won’t address all “three enemies of the soul” listed above. The focus will be on the fact that we do have real enemies in this world (and not just the internal kind mentioned above). For example, while King David had internal enemies of his own that got him into real trouble (just think of what he did with Bathsheba when, as King, he should have been out on the battlefield with his soldiers–see 2 Samuel 11), he also had real external enemies that he had to battle constantly, too.

In an article published in 2002 titled, Ten Truths About Enemies,” by Richard A. Kauffman, Mennonite pastor and author of An American in Persia: A Pilgrimage to Iran” (2010), he writes the following ten truths about enemies:

  1. Everyone has enemies.
    The Bible takes enemies seriously. King David and Jesus had enemies. If having enemies weren’t a part of life, Jesus wouldn’t have had to tell his disciples to love their enemies. Matthew 5:43-44
  2. We either fight or run from them.
    Humans often respond to enemies in two ways: we either fight back or flee. Both are natural responses—our instinct is self-preservation. However, when we flee from our enemies, we can still carry them inside us. When we fight back, we take on the character of our enemies. If we strike back at our enemies, we might set off a downward spiral of attack and counterattack that quickly gets out of control.
  3. We want to curse our enemies.
    Many psalms that deal with enemies make Christians uncomfortable. The psalmist didn’t just pray for them or for his own protection. He often cursed his enemies, seeking bloodthirsty revenge. Instead of dismissing these psalms, we can use them as God-given words for dealing with our own feelings of fear and anger toward enemies. If we pray these words, we release our hate and hostility to God. Then we don’t need to act on our feelings of vulnerability and hostility. Then we can trust God to protect us from our enemies. Psalms 55-59; 137:7-9
  4. God loves them.
    Jesus taught us that God loves enemies and treats them justly: God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” God “is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Therefore, we too should “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Matthew 5:45b; Luke 6:35-36
  5. Jesus makes peace possible.
    Jesus didn’t just teach his disciples the way of peace. Jesus is our peace. The apostle Paul said that while we were warring against God, Christ died to make peace with us. Although we sinful human beings were at odds with God, God took initiative to make peace with us—through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. Jesus has reconciled us to God in order to stop our warring madness with God and with each other. Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Ephesians 2:14, 17-18; Colossians 1:20
  6. God’s family makes peace.
    If God makes peace with enemies, then so do God’s children. As Jesus said in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peacemaking is a family trait in God’s family. When God’s children work for peace, they are demonstrating a family likeness, just as children in human families show traits of their parents. Matthew 5:9
  7. We disarm our enemies.
    Jesus taught his disciples to respond to enemies in unexpected ways—ways that sometimes “disarm” them. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” Jesus’ disciples respond in concrete ways to their enemies. They do not retaliate or seek revenge. They pray for their enemies. They do good to those who want to harm them. Matthew 5:39-41; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17-21
  8. Enemies can hurt us.
    “Disarming” actions do not guarantee that Christian disciples will win over enemies. In fact, Christians are still persecuted and even killed by their enemies. It is not an accident that Jesus linked the Beatitude about peacemakers with the one about persecution. But Jesus’ disciples believe there are worse things than dying. We would rather die than take another’s life, since we have hope for eternal life. Matthew 5:9-12; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 1:21
  9. We “arm” ourselves against the real enemy.
    Christians are not fighting against flesh and blood. We are not struggling with Adolf Hitler or the latest terrorist, but with principalities and powers, dark and evil spiritual forces. Our weapons are not worldly ones but spiritual ones: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, and the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17
  10. We can learn from our enemies.
    Sometimes our enemies do us a service. Friends tend to accept or overlook our weaknesses, but enemies reflect back to us aspects of our personalities we don’t like. So we ought to listen to our enemies. What are they saying to us about who we are? What can we learn from them about ourselves? Can they make us better people? We cannot be reconciled with our enemies unless we’re able to see the situation from their perspective. (Quote source here.)

So much in our society tells us to seek revenge when we’ve been wronged, or to try to get even when we are insulted and/or persecuted. Lying and deception is the name of the game today (and it always has been). It’s a very human response. However, Jesus makes it quite clear that the way of “the world” (as in our culture) is not the way for his followers to respond. Yet, too often, we witness those claiming to follow after Jesus in regard to how they treat their enemies trying to get even or get back at them, and too often we, ourselves, do the very same thing. We even do it with each other (Christian to Christian).

In our culture today, our “superheros” are those who can completely and totally annihilate their enemies. How often do we turn on the TV or go see a movie where revenge and deception and violence are key components to the story. It’s everywhere. And we’ve been conditioned to believe that this kind of behavior is okay; that it is our “right” to get even or “settle a score” or get back at someone we think has done an injustice to us; and that it is our right to destroy someone who doesn’t think like we think; or act in ways that are acceptable to us.

Is it tempting to act like that? It is… and how often is that our first reaction? But it’s not the way Jesus taught us to treat our enemies. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what he taught us to do.

In an article published on April 5, 2018, titled, How to Love Our Enemies,” by Kathy Ferguson Litton, leader of a national ministry for pastors and planters wives at the North American Mission Board (an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention), and she developed and manages a website for pastor’s wives called Flourish at flourish.me, she writes:

“Love your enemies” — Jesus

Perhaps this is among Jesus’ most revolutionary statements — and certainly most humanly counterintuitive. We already were struggling to “love our neighbor,” and then He throws this at us. Seriously, Jesus? Our enemies?

He did have plenty. And even a frenemy or two. Yet in His Sermon on the Mount, He shockingly resets what people and their lives should look like in the Kingdom of God:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:43-48)

Jesus even defines enemy for us:

    • He means people who oppose us, try to hurt us.
    • People who have harmful intentions and clear hostility toward us.
    • Those who literally persecute us.

Then He points out what we should do:

    • Love them.
    • Bless them.
    • Do good toward them.
    • Pray for them.

I don’t know about you, but this is what I do for my family, not my enemy. Our enemies run the spectrum from mild hurt, to a serious offense, to one who devastated our lives permanently. Our enemies may attack us physically or merely gossip about us. They may even persecute us because of our beliefs. In our highly charged religious and political climate, our enemies may be in the Middle East or just on the opposite pole of current American politics. Racial and ethnic tensions are very high, creating battlefields and enemies in communities and hearts. Ironically, churches themselves have people who powerfully oppose each other — and some even have harmful intentions.

Jesus tells us we have to respond counter to our hearts and counter to our culture. He says plainly, “Don’t just love those who love you, love your enemy.” He says we then will be true sons of our Father in heaven. In other words, we would be treating them like He treats us…. (Quote source here.)

In her article she also mentions the following story:

Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon, Loving Your Enemies, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Montgomery, Alabama, Nov. 17, 1957 [stated]:

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

Keep in mind the very volatile context. The hate was strong against him and his movement. His followers being struck, hosed with water, fire bombed, killed, etc. This is not a small moment, but a highly charged one. And eventually King was killed by an enemy.

I love Martin Luther King’s language in these thoughts:

When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

Reading this helped me see how very slowly God has changed my perspective toward my enemies. When I thought of my enemies as “bad” people, they remained my enemy. They were just like me–living in an evil system of sin. But in time I began to see my enemies through a gospel lens. I saw them as sinners who are deceived by sin.

I am caught in the same system of sin. My enemies really aren’t the issue; sin is. Diverting my attention from them to sin and deception has gone a long way in helping me love as Matthew 5 suggests. When I readily relate my enemies to the idea of sin and being deceived, I am more prone to dispense love and grace — as my Father dispensed to me. This is the beautiful, powerful love MLK called for. And modeled by Jesus Himself: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24) Let’s be countercultural and love our enemies. (Quote source here.)

It is Jesus who has the final word on how we should treat our enemies (Matthew 5:44)… But I tell you…

Love your enemies . . .

And pray for those . . .

Who persecute you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Bleed the Same” by Mandisa, TobyMac, Kirk Franklin:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Footprints

A very popular poem in the past several decades titled, Footprints,” and sometimes titled Footprints in the Sands,” has been attributed to three different authors with three slightly different versions of the same poem. The first poem appeared in 1936 and it was written by Mary Stevenson (1922-1999); the second version of the poem appeared in 1963 and it was written by Carolyn Joyce Carty; and the third version of the poem was published in 1964 by Margaret Fishback Powers (b. 1943). (Source including all three versions is available at this link.)

For the purposes of this blog post, I will be referring to the version of the poem by Margaret Fishback Powers since I found another book published by her in 1998 (republished in 2006) titled, Footprints: Scripture with Reflections Inspired by the Best-Loved Poem by Margaret Fishback Powers,” at a used bookstore yesterday, and there are a few quotes from that book that I also want to include in this blog post. Her version of the poem is as follows (found on page 2 of the above mentioned book):

FOOTPRINTS

One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
one belonging to me
and one to my Lord.

When the last scene of my life shot before me
I looked back at the footprints in the sand
and to my surprise
I noticed that many times along the path of my life
There was only one set of footprints.

I realized that this was at the lowest
and saddest times of my life.
This always bothered me
and I questioned the Lord
about my dilemma.

“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You,
You would walk and talk with me all the way.
But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times
of my life there is only one set of footprints.
I just don’t understand why, when I need You most,
You leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child,
I love you and will never leave you,
never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
(Quote source: “Footprints: Scripture with Reflections,” page 2.)

Many people have received inspiration from the words of this poem (or similar versions) over the years since it was first published. The book mentioned above takes each line of the poem and makes a chapter out of it that includes several verses from the Bible that refer to that particular line. The line I am highlighting from that poem above is found in a chapter titled, “God Is With Us… When We Need Direction” (pp. 67-72). Here is that chapter including the line from the poem above that it refers to:

“And I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.” (A line from the poem above.)

When a transit strike brought our recently purchased business to a standstill, I found myself wondering if we had made the right decision to get into this new business. The choice had seemed to be the right one at the time, but then, I wasn’t so sure. How was I supposed to sort out what we should do next? When we face questions of this kind, we need to get our arms around God’s wisdom… [Note: Scripture references below are from NIV, 1984]

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.James 1:5

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you and watch over you, [says the LORD.]Psalm 32:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.Proverbs 3:5-6

For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.Proverbs 2:6

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”Isaiah 30:21

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.John 16:13

Show me your ways, O Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.Psalm 25:4-5

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.”Isaiah 48:17

God doesn’t mind our questions when we come to him with a seeking heart. God is bigger than any question we can ask. And he often will give us the answers we seek in his Word.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light for my path.Psalm 119:105

For this command is a lamp,
    this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
    are the way to life.Proverbs 6:23

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8

Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise…
for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart

    and have all of them ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in the Lord
.Proverbs 22:17-19

When we find ourselves questioning God’s reason for allowing certain things to happen, we must stop, remember God’s faithfulness, and depend upon his grace. Whatever our questions, whatever our circumstances, God is still in control.

The Lord delights in a man’s way,
    he makes his steps firm;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,

    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.Psalm 37:23-24

Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me, [O Lord.]Psalm 31:3

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your love, O Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.Psalm 138:8

Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.Hosea 6:3

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
    he will be our guide even to the end.Psalm 48:14

When we need direction, we must trust that the Lord will take our faith, limited as it is, and make something of lasting value out of it. God has a plan for us. He cares about our dilemmas, hears our heartfelt cries, and will answer us in ways that will astonish us and fill our hearts with songs of joy.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11 (Quote source: “Footprints: Scripture with Reflections,” pp. 67-72.)

I can’t think of any time in a Christian’s life when it is not wise to seek direction from the Lord, not only in difficult times, but also when things seem to be going smoothly as that is when we tend to let our guard down.

In an article published on June 11, 2014 on Proverbs 31 Ministries titled Lord, I Don’t Know What To Do,” by Leah DiPascal, speaker, writer, and communicator with Proverbs 31 Ministries, she writes:

“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.”Psalm 25:4 (NLT)

Do you ever feel like you’re going in circles and not making any progress? At least not the kind of progress you were expecting.

Are the constant appeals of our world pulling you in a million different ways, causing you to question if you’re headed in the right direction?

If you’re like me, you have plans and dreams you want to fulfill. But life is confusing at times. And most days it seems like you’re just surviving instead of living out those dreams or accomplishing your goals.

Numerous distractions.

Too many choices.

Endless interruptions.

There have been days I’ve felt like one foot was fixed to the floor, while my other foot scurried in every direction. Expending a lot of energy and mental fatigue, but going nowhere. Can you relate?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to wake up every morning and be assured you’re on the right path towards your goals? To know with certainty that you’re headed in the right direction? To feel confident with each step, without constantly questioning yourself?

Too many times I’ve second-guessed a decision I was confident about. I want so desperately to follow God’s will that I’ll pray, but then feel uncertain, not wanting to make a wrong move. I wonder: “Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe this isn’t part of God’s plan for my life.”

As I’ve wrestled with indecision and insecurity, I’ve sought God’s Word for help. A few months ago, I found a priceless nugget of truth in the Bible. It addresses our desire for guidance and shows us what to do when we need clear direction.

King David composed these words in a beautiful psalm, tucked within the pages of the Old Testament:

“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you” (Psalm 25:4-5).

These verses reveal David’s humble and teachable heart. He wanted to be guided by God and led by His truth. David knew God was his Savior and placed all his hope in the One who created the right path for him.

We find the answers to David’s request for guidance only a few short passages away. Promises we can claim for our own lives:

“The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands” (Psalm 25:8-10, NLT).

Based on these verses, when our hearts are humble and truly seeking God’s will, we can be confident of this:

1. God will always show us what is right for us.

2. When we get sidetracked, God will direct us back to the right path.

3. We are not alone. God leads and teaches us along the way.

4. God leads those who obey Him with unfailing love and faithfulness.

If you’re unsure about some things in your life, don’t wait another day to figure it out on your own. Ensure your heart is in the right place of humility, and then ask God to help you. Once you’ve asked, trust that God is directing you.

If you know you’ve gotten on the wrong path, seek God for direction instead of looking to the world for answers. As you take steps to follow and obey God’s voice, He will lovingly show you the way.

Months ago I asked the Lord to etch these verses onto my heart and mind, so I’d always have them with me—especially on days when I feel like I’m going in circles and lacking direction.

Today, I’m praying these verses over you.

Truth For Today:

Psalm 32:8, “The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.'” (NLT)

Psalm 90:17, “Let the favor of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (ESV) (Article and quote source available here.)

I’ll end this post with this great reminder from Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him…

And He will make . . .

Your paths . . .

Straight . . . .

YouTube Video: “God Will Make A Way” by Acapella–Christian Vineyard Music:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Sound of Silence

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

“Christian truth is about as welcome in today’s culture as a wet shaggy dog shaking himself at the Miss America Pageant.” That’s the opening sentence of Chapter 3 titled, “The Sound of Silence,” in a brand new book titled, Talk the Walk: How to Be Right Without Being Insufferable,” by Steve Brown, radio broadcaster and Founder of Key Life Network, Professor Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary, Visiting Professor of Practical Theology at Knox Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary, host on the radio talk show, Steve Brown, Etc.”, Bible teacher, keynote speaker, author of over a dozen books, a former pastor, and, yes, even a former disk jockey. He is also a personal friend of mine, and I’ve written posts on a couple of his previous books (see here and here).

Steve’s wealth of knowledge and wonderful sense of humor never fails to amaze me with each book I’ve read that he has written and published. If you personally know Steve, you know he’s truly “one of a kind.” His latest book (linked above at Key Life and also available on Amazon.com at this link) is exceptionally timely given all of the rapid changes going on in our society today.

The book is specifically written with a Christian audience in mind; however, skeptics of Christianity might find it interesting to read, too. I want to back up just a bit from that sentence quoted above that opens Chapter 3 with the following from Chapter 2 titled, “The Gift of Truth.” Steve writes:

There is the old joke about a businessman interviewing applicants for a position in his company. He asked each of them a simple question, “What is two plus two?” He got a variety of answers, including, “I don’t know, but I’m glad for the opportunity to discuss the issue,” and a lawyer who referenced case law where two plus two was proven to be four. The final applicant got up from this chair, closed the door and the blinds, sat back down, leaned over the desk, and then whispered, “What do you want it to be?”

He got the job.

So often today, truth is whatever “you want it to be.” Whatever you want it to be includes religion, gender, morals, marriage, race, and political truth. Not only that, but anybody who questions the freedom to make truth what one wants it to be is labeled intolerant, bigoted, or worse.

Have you ever had anyone say to you, when you have expressed a deeply held conviction or a truth that had changed your life, “I’m glad it’s true for you”? What? I do not know anything that makes me spit and cuss more than someone speaking that kind of drivel. Frankly, I do not want to fly with a pilot, be treated by a doctor, or have a mechanic work on my car, who is that cavalier about aeronautical, medical, or mechanical truth.

So here at the beginning, let me make two statements that are quite controversial to a whole lot of people: there is true truth, and the Christian faith is true truth.

First, believe it or not, there is truth, and that truth is true apart from my perception or anyone’s opinion. Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying that “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” “True truth” (as my late friend and Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer called it) is not adjustable. I may not know that truth, I may miss it, and I may be wrong about it. But truth is there, and it is there aside from what anybody believes about it. For instance, God is personal, or he is not; you are forgiven, or you are not; I am loved by God, or I am not…. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 2, pp. 13-14).

Now I don’t want to leave you hanging at this point–Steve does go on to write in Chapter 2 titled, “The Gift of Truth,” that there are five truths that the book covers: (1) There really is a God; (2) God had not remained silent; (3) God’s love is unreasonable; (4) Christians aren’t called to be fixers; and (5) Truths 1-4 are the main thing (a brief explanation of those five points is covered in Chapter 2).

Returning to the sentence at the start of this blog post and it is also the first sentence in Chapter 3 titled, “The Sound of Silence,”  Steve continues with the following:

Christian truth is about as welcome in today’s culture as a wet shaggy dog shaking himself at the Miss America Pageant. Truth does not matter, but intolerance does. If the subject is salvation, Christian truth suggests that there are those who are saved and those who are not. If the truth is about sin, than some things are right and others are wrong. If it is about hell and heaven, it means that one place is hot and the other place is not. If it is about forgiveness, then some are forgiven and others are not. Truth feels intolerant–and frankly, when I speak Christian truth, it sometimes feels that way to me.

Truth, by its very nature, divides and offends. That is what Jesus meant when he made the startling statement that he had not come to bring peace but to set children against parents and to create enemies of one’s own household (Matthew 10:35-36).

The presupposition of this book is that Christians are called to speak truth and, much of the time, to speak it to people who do not want to hear it. And they are constrained to do so. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Paul was saying that he could not keep quiet.

Jeremiah the prophet had the same experience, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). This is the normal experience of every Christian who knows the truth.

But with all of that being said, we Christians must be careful in what we say, how we say it, and even if we are to say it at all. Jesus cautioned that we should “not give dogs what is holy” nor “throw your pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). The truth we have is precious, dangerous, and explosively powerful in the way it can heal or hurt.

There are times when silence really is golden….

Silence, for instance, is better than saying too much that would be confusing and unduly irritating. A young seminary student was once asked to preach in a small country church. There was a major snowstorm, and only one farmer showed up for the service. The young preacher asked the farmer what he should do. The farmer told him that when only one of his cows showed at meantime, he fed this cow.

The preacher–with only the one farmer in attendance–went through the entire service and preached the entire sermon. When the service was over, the student asked the farmer how he had done. “Son,” said the farmer, “when one cow shows, I feed him… but I don’t give him the whole load.”

It is often enough to say, “Jesus loves you, and I do, too.” Other people do not always need to know the differences between Reformed and Arminian theology, the intricacies of the biblical view of law and grace, the Christian disagreements about biblical interpretation, or a Christian critique of politics and culture.

I recently was asked to visit an older man who, after a lifetime of atheism, was thinking about the Christian faith. He had started asking questions, and had even attempted to read the Bible each morning. We spent most of the morning talking about his questions. None of them had to do with theology, hermeneutics, culture, or disagreements within the Christian church–not one. Answering questions that are not asked, defining issues that are not raised, and going places that are not presently important is offensive and a waste of time. It is better that Christians remain silent.

Silence is also appropriate when a Christian has not been given permission to speak. Christians should not shilly-shally about who they are, and should at least give an indication of what they believe. But more information requires permission, and that permission is often given in the questions that are asked. If there are not questions and if no interest is expressed, it is wise to remain silent.

My friend Jake Luhrs, the front man for the Grammy-nominated metal band August Burns Red, is a Christian. Jake wrote a devotional book,Mountains,” and in it he writes [on page 6]:

I never thought I’d write a book, let alone a devotional. To be honest, I didn’t think the day would come when I would share some of my proudest (and not so proud) moments with an audience who might even care to listen…. If you know anything about me you know that I don’t push “religion.” I don’t want to promote a religion. But I do want people to have the same relationship I have with Jesus. I want them to feel loved and understood. When they’re scared, I want them to see him as the ultimate source of love, hope, help, strength and forgiveness.

Why did Jake write his book? He did it because so many of his fans had questions. In fact, he formed a nonprofit community called HeartSupport that touches 70,000 people each month with counseling, help, and acceptance. He started that community and wrote the devotional book because so many people granted permission. Jake told me that when he was on tour, there were so many who wanted to know about his faith, but because of the tour and the necessity of moving quickly to the next city, he simply did not have the time to say what needed to be said and to answer the questions that had been asked.

Christians do not have to give others the whole load. When asked, Christians can say, “Yeah, I am a believer, and it’s the most important thing in my life. If you ever want to hear about it, just ask and I’ll tell you.” Or in my case as a religious professional, when I am asked what I do, I sometimes answer, “I tell people ‘who want to hear’ about Jesus.” Or perhaps when Christians think they have a message that will help someone in trouble, they can say, “If you want me to, I’ll be glad to share it with you.” Permission opens the door to speaking truth. If permission is not given, silence is good practice. Silence is also a wise practice when spoken truth is spoken for the wrong reasons. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 3, pp. 21-25).

Chapter 3 continues at this point with the topics of “Speaking truth from guilt” (i.e., as in feeling guilty about not speaking up), “Speaking truth to get power” (i.e., looking for power over others by being right), “Speaking truth from self-interest” (i.e., speaking with an agenda of self-interest), “Speaking truth from ignorance” (i.e., not being informed about the nature of the truth they speak), “Speaking truth to help God out” (i.e., God does not need anyone), and “Speaking truth with silence” (i.e., sometimes it is best to be silent and to let love, freedom, and joy do the talking).

Obviously, I have not even scratched the surface of all that is contained in this book, or even the two chapters mentioned above. Steve ended Chapter 3 with the following paragraphs written under the title  of “Speaking Truth with Silence”:

Sometimes it is best to be silent and to let love, freedom, and joy do the talking. There are some things Christians cannot say without words, but there are other matters that are only confused by words. My wife, who is a musician, has often said to me that music is the universal language. Sometimes it is best to remain silent and hear the language of music. Just so, sometimes it is best to speak the language of silence.

It is a cliché, but nevertheless there is some truth to believing that Christians are the only Bible unbelievers ever read. However, with due respect to that point of view, let me say that most of us sin so much, betray our principles so often, and fail so obviously in our Christian walk that the message is mixed and muddled.

But what if we remained silent by not defending ourselves? What if we remained silent when others are condemning those whose lifestyles, politics, or religious views are deemed unacceptable? What if we remained silent and refused to be the social, political, and religious critics of every opinion that wasn’t our own? What if we remained silent in the face of rejection? What if we refused to share the secrets we’ve been told or tell the stories we’ve overheard? What if we remain silent and overlook the foibles of others? What if we looked at the pain of our neighbor and just loved him or her, instead of trying to fix the unfixable? What if our response to confusion, fear, and guilt was simply, “I know”?

There is a powerful witness in that kind of silence. (Quote source: “Talk the Walk,” Chapter 3, pp. 30-31).

As I mentioned above, the book contains so much more information then just the few quotes I’ve posted above. In fact, I still have the last ten chapters to read. But there was just something about Chapter 3, “The Sound of Silence,” that struck a chord with me as I read it. Maybe it will with you, too. Silence can be a powerful witness.

I hope this post has whetted your appetite to read more of Steve’s new book, Talk the Walk,” which can be purchased at Key Life and it is also available on Amazon.com at this link.

Ecclesiastes 3 opens with “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and it includes a long list of items starting with “a time to be born and a time to die.” In verse 7 we find in the second half of that verse, “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.” May we pray for wisdom…

To know when . . .

Is the right time . . .

To be silent . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Sound of Silence” by Pentatonix:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here