Another wonderful set of questions from my childhood friend Brian Eshleman, related to his blogs here:
55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. John 8:55, New King James Version
Question: Jesus, Teacher even in the crux of intense criticism, lays out the alternative to honesty about His relationship with His Father. “If I said what you expect, I’d be lying.”
Where have the real risks of saying and living Christ’s Truth been put in perspective by the even more real dangers of the alternative? John Piper calls this the Myth of Safety.
Answer: The “alternative to honesty” is easy on the tongue of liars. They will call it half truths, or spin, or positivity, or lots of things that make something easier to swallow than the simple, factual truth.
Whether falsely accusing or using unjust scales against those they wish to control and oppress — or white washing bad things to look good to those they hope to impress — a liar is more interested in “how it might sound” (subjective) rather than verify and speak actual truth (factual).
The risks for speaking truth in the time of Jesus and His disciples included torture and death. And in today’s age, speaking truth with a pure goal of moving things forward in truth — with little regard for the politics of the matter, or how ones wording might be twisted — can cost people their jobs and all kinds of other costs socially, financially, and personally. I definitely know this from personal experience.
If you don’t line up with the liars and play their game and tell their lies, you may be identified as a threat, and they may do whatever they can to eliminate you. And if there is no actual evidence to be found to bring against you, they may twist your words and say, “He said ________.” and then say “_______ is how he meant it. Can’t you see how it has to be read/understood ______ way. That is how he meant it to sound.” And in the day of the disciples, we see that it didn’t matter that the accusations dont match up to what a disciple actually said, did, or meant. So whether someone is guilty or not will bear very little consequence. (But don’t we all consider ourselves fully justified in the moment anyway — so beware your own deceitful heart.)
But whatever loss of social status or loss of job or persecution a Christ follower might encounter, it is nothing in comparison to the price liars will pay for eternity in the pit of hell. At least that is what the Word of God tells us:
and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Roman’s 21:8b
So the cost to the liars in eternity is much greater than any temporary opposition or discomfort or unfair treatment we may face for not participating in their lies. Instead of being mad at them — we should pity them for their short sightedness and plead with God that He “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
This isn’t always easy when facing the very real circumstance of suffering because we didn’t go the easy way.
Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; then the Lord will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you. Jeremiah 26:13, New King James Version
Question: Jeremiah comes down to us with the sobriquet of the weeping prophet. His deservedly negative message gives us the word jeremiad. Yet he doesn’t become so locked into delivering the bad news, so set like Jonah on his own vindication that he fails to cast a vision for repentance and reconciliation.
What godly communicator have you known who did both well? In what instances have you encountered someone who could be confrontational about the costs of defying God’s expectations but also inspirational that the struggle to change was well worth it? In which aspect have you had to grow more?
Answer: Without believing and appreciating Christ’s suffering on the cross, what justification could we make that wouldn’t have us seeking vengeance in some manner or taking joy in the pending destruction and devastation of those we might consider worthy of God’s wrath. It is easy to look at those who have wronged us and who we see as “liars” as deserving the wrath of God, but that isn’t the Spirit of God. Knowing the undeserved mercy we have received — even though we might detest the dishonesty — we must remember our own unmerited grace, and have a heart for even those who oppose us and wrong us. Not just saying, “I wish you the best” through clenched teeth, but genuinely hoping and praying that hearts would be changed, that prideful egos would be deflated (quite probably including our own in that statement), that repentance and reconciliation would triumph, and that God would be glorified.
Shouldn’t it be freeing, in the midst of great trial, to see clenched jaws and clenched fists and red faces and raised voices opposing you as enemies — when your humble offer in return is peace, is reconciliation, is an offer for collaboration, communication, understanding, and community? But isn’t it tempting to mimic the agitation and anger and pride instead?
I’ve encountered many leaders in my professional career (and in my friendships with “men of God”) who have been able to be both “confrontational about the costs of defying  expectations but also inspirational that the struggle to change was well worth it” — and the key thing that made them good at this was that they were in the trenches with those they expected to influence and inspire. They were invested in and engaged with the people, not casting commands from afar, but seeing rough edges as an opportunity for constructive criticism and feedback and growth through their leadership — rather than seeing people as disposable commodities. If one cannot love and respect, he will condemn instead of convict — and he might correct but never inspire change.
And if one cannot love and respect and seek reconciliation, pride is the root of the cancer that eats at his insides and keeps him away from the life giving power of Christ. One must lay down pride, surrender, and die daily to self if he truly wants to live.
The confrontational part is easier for me because I’m by nature more “matter of fact” and “direct” in my communications. I would say that it is because I’m “focused on seeking truth” and “the best solution”, and I don’t care if it comes from me or from someone else. So I don’t get offended if someone else’s idea proves to be better, I’m actually excited to have learned something new that I can put into practice.
So, naively thinking that everyone has this same perspective, I step out boldly to speak, not expecting people to be offended, but expecting collaboration of ideas, questions, criticism, and a respectful consensus. However, I say this approach is naive, because thinking that everyone is actually mutually respectful and seeking to work together just isn’t always the case. Ego, hunger for power/authority, and personal insecurities in others can interpret this direct approach as intimidating — and my communication of the facts/specifics can be wrapped in an imperfect delivery — not considering all the ways it might step on egos and insecurities. And this can breed misunderstanding and division.
So, I would say that I need to improve in my understanding of those things that get in the way — grow in my understanding that everyone doesn’t think like I do, nor are they always going to hear what I’m trying to communicate from the simple statement of facts/circumstances/truth.
Lord, many times I only see my own side of things. Help me to be willing to care enough about others to hear and try to understand their side of things as well. Help me to not judge others harshly just because it seems that we are set in opposite directions. Help me to appreciate differing opinions and perspectives and not stifle communication and understanding, but to listen and consider and to seek reconciliation where possible. Help me to make every effort I should, yet to also know when to shake the dust from my sandals if reconciliation is impossible. Amen.