Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Speaking Truth in Love

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)

Those of you who know me will see that I enjoy writing. Specifically, I enjoy writing to glorify God, and to let my writings be an edification for all who read them. I must admit. One of the purposes of my writing is for my own benefit, to let the words be a mirror to reflect myself. This may seem rather selfish. This seems rather egoistic. Yet, it is because I am aware of my own faults, that I write to see how God's grace has shaped me over the years. Am I learning to write more accurately and clearly? Am I true to what I have learnt? Am I faithful to the calling God has given me? Am I easily understood?

I have received my fair share of criticisms. Some have accused me of being too big-headed. Others think I am trying to show off. None of them are close to the truth. Rather, I believe that all of us must continue to learn. For a student, any unknown word is not a chance to throw potshots at the one using it, but an opportunity to improve one's vocabulary. For a teacher, there is a duty to use simple words, but also a calling to help readers grow in their learning and understanding. There are some concepts that only 'big words' can faithfully capture. For instance, if I simply stick to the English word 'love,' I will fail to appreciate that Greek has many words on love that the English language does not capture. Should I who knows the Greek, selfishly keep to myself, for the sake of keeping things simple? To do so, is not only bad stewardship on my part, but also a sad deprivation of the opportunity for others to learn. I will continue to do this, even at the risk of others calling me names like 'show-off,' 'boastful' etc. It is more important to obey God, than to be concerned about being offended. We need to meet in the middle, both teacher and student. Often, roles change too, with teacher learning from student and vice versa. Both cannot brush each other aside and walk off without truly understanding each other.

Writing is a tough vocation. Not only can it be lonely, it does not bring in much income, let alone any in the first place. During my visit to Baker Books publishing house in Grand Rapids, I remember hearing the General Editor, himself a Regent-College graduate share about the publishing industry. Publishers typically reject more than 90% of all manuscripts submitted. Many of them were returned to the prospecting authors unopened! The takeaway is this. Unless you are a famous speaker, popular pastor or has rich connections with the establishment, forget it. Your writings may be superb, even highly credible. However, if you are a nobody, forget it.

Why then do I still write? Why then do I persevere on to try to encourage readers, even when I feel discouraged by negative comments and feedback? Just this week, one of my blog pieces got criticized severely despite my most fair-minded review. I begin to wonder. Am I really that bad? Is freedom of speech limited only to giving nice cosy words about things around me? Probably not. The process of working to uphold truth in love does not necessarily mean others will do the same. At least, not in the same manner I expect.

Christlike Freedom
Peter Marshall, husband of the famous authoress, Catherine Marshall once preached a sermon about liberty. He says:
"For freedom is not the right to do as one pleases, but the opportunity to please to do what is right."
Speaking about the Founding Fathers of America, he continues:
"The Founding Fathers sought freedom. . .
not from law but freedom in law;
not freedom from government - but freedom in government;
not freedom from speech - but freedom in speech;
not freedom from the press - but freedom in the press;
not freedom from religion - but freedom in religion.
" (Peter Marshall)
I may not be American, but I certainly appreciate the way set forth by the vision of the American founders. May I add that Christian liberty is not the freedom to speak whatever we like but the freedom to restrain ourselves, to restore others, to reconcile with people, and to refresh one another in the Lord. This is what it means to have freedom. For the Christian, free speech is not saying anything that pleases yours or my ears. It is the willingness to speak the truth lovingly, in a manner that is Christlike. This calls for fairness. Jesus may be angry, but he shows tenderness. Jesus may have overturned the tables at the temple, but he shows us that he is willing to turn himself in to the authorities seeking to condemn him. For Jesus, speaking the truth in love comes with a heavy cost. As disciples of Christ, we should not be too surprised if our best intentions fall on deaf ears, or others persecuting us for what we stand for.

As for me, I do not know how long I can sustain my writings. It has cost my family and I much time and resources. While I will continue to offer my writings free of charge, pray for us that God will show us how he has provided and will continue to provide, as I exercise my vocation to write, to teach, to preach and to speak the truth in love. Whatever little we have, we offer it to the Lord. Whatever much we have, we offer it to his people. We are a servant to all, as part of our devotion to God. The great Reformer, Martin Luther once declared a paradoxical truth:
"A Christian is a free lord, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.
" (Martin Luther)
I agree without reservation. That we may all grow up in Christ, in truth, in love and in giving glory to God. God alone. In God I write.


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