I really value truth, but there are different ways of speaking the truth – ways that hurt or ways that bring change. For the last year I have been struggling with how to speak truth in such a way as to bring change rather than to get backs up. Different campaigns are going on to challenge government not to legalize prostitution in South Africa, to get the media to be more balanced in their reporting, against questionable taste in advertising – all fantastic issues that I feel I should be supporting. So what is stopping me from jumping in and getting fully involved? Words. Sometimes Christians campaign in such a way that it makes people, including myself cringe. So what do I do – these issues are important so I can’t neglect them just as I am embarrassed by what others have said. I asked myself that helpful question: What would Jesus do?
I have noticed two different ways and tones that Jesus used His words – one that is harsh and confrontational and the other gentle. I also noticed that He used these different techniques with different groups. The harsh words were reserved for the religious – those who claim to be God-followers.
John 2:14-16 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
Yet Jesus’ behaviour towards the non-religious was much more personal and gentle. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes – he didn’t condemn, but his presence and gentle truth speaking changed lives.
Luke 19:1-8 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a “sinner.'” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
So maybe I should follow Jesus’ lead – speaking truth without compromise but in a way that doesn’t condemn or make people cringe. Now I guess I need to figure out how to get the law and policy makers to come to lunch!