God says, “You shall not murder.” How do Christians go about having a rational and civil conversation with a woman holding a sign that says, “Abortion saves lives!”? She will probably not feel honored when you share your Biblical view of life with her, especially if she had an abortion.
God reveals in plain language that He made human beings in His own image and made them male and female. How do Christians have respectful dialogue with people who applaud Facebook for giving 14 gender options and a “custom” option to fill in anything you want? Simply believing the truth about gender, let alone talking about it, will give many people the impression that you loathe the LGBTQIA+ community. Regardless of your love for them, the truth refutes that which many people use to define themselves, and this truth is perceived as unbearable.
God has made it quite clear that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:20, 23). How do Christians have open and courteous conversations about God’s law, sin, and sin’s eternal consequences with people who assume they are essentially good-natured and already quite pleasing to God? To speak the truth is to threaten their self-esteem and emotional stability.
Let’s face it, as Christians, we believe things that offend people. Consider the truth that is most precious to us – the gospel of a crucified and risen Christ. The cross, which is most precious to us, is most offensive to the world. The Apostle Paul said that a crucified Christ was a scandalon or a scandal, an offense, an obstacle that gets in the way of people and trips them up. But that crucified Christ is the one we love the most. How will people receive us if what we love the most offends them? Often, not well.
As Christians, our comfort is found in knowing the world hated our Savior as well. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18). Being hated by the world is hard, and yet it is comforting because it confirms our inseparable union with Christ. Jesus said, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Lk. 21:17-19). How reassuring it is to hear that from Jesus.
As lovers of truth, we must realize why people hate the truth. Why do people hate creation science so much? Why do people get so angry at the thought that true marriage is between one man and one woman? Why do some pro-choice advocates respond so nastily to the pro-life movement? Why isn’t the truth more loved? The answer is simple really. Jesus explained it. Jesus said in John 3:19–20, “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” People don’t love the truth because they are doing evil things and want to keep doing them. Jesus continued, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” Understand what Jesus meant. People living in sin, people celebrating wicked and evil things, hate the light, hate the truth. Why? Because they know that if they step into the light of God’s truth, they will be exposed as evil. They will be admitting that they shouldn’t live like they’re living. People living in sin do not want to hear the truth because the truth indicts them and calls them to change course. The truth tells people they are wrong, and that’s hard to swallow.
Paul came at it from this angle. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” People suppress the truth because they are unrighteous. This is why people ignored and hated Jesus. He spoke the truth about them and the truth about himself, and the truth offended them.
This week we turn to Lord’s Day 43 in the Heidelberg Catechism. It’s just one question: “What is required in the ninth commandment?” Answer:
I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard. Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil’s own works under penalty of God’s heavy wrath. In court and everywhere else, I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbor’s honor and reputation.
There’s a lot to unpack in this answer, but zero in on this one phrase: “I must love the truth.” We must not only love the truth of a crucified and risen Christ but also love whatever is true. When we love the truth, we will be truthful people.
The Ninth Commandment doesn’t simply forbid lying and deceit, it demands truth-telling. The Ninth Commandment charges us to “speak and confess [the truth] honestly.” Who speaks and confesses the truth honestly? Those who love the truth. Who loves the truth? Those who love and submit to Christ.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul said that perishing people “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” Those who love the truth are those who have been saved by Christ. They are those who have been drawn into the light of Christ by the Holy Spirit, have had their wickedness and sinfulness exposed by God’s law, and have also received Christ and forgiveness by true faith. Those who love the truth are those who are united to Christ and who possess the Holy Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth. People who speak and confess the truth are those who love the truth of salvation in Christ alone, a truth that compels them to speak and confess the truth honestly.
Why would we speak and confess the truth amidst people who hate the truth, especially when people can be so malicious and cruel? Well, that should be obvious: we love the truth and we want others to love the truth as well. The more we love the truth of Christ and truth in general, the more willing we will be to suffer for the truth. People don’t suffer for things they don’t love. We love Christ. Christ said, “I am . . . the truth” (Jn. 14:6). Because we love Christ, really, because Christ loves us, we are willing to speak and confess the truth honestly and winsomely even if it means we are maligned, misquoted, mistreated, and marginalized.
Never should we be angry, impatient, vengeful, and unkind, but we should always be lovers of the truth. We ought to love truth so much that we speak and confess it with winsomeness, for our gracious and loving God has told us:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Col. 4:5–6)
How can we possibly do that? By the power of Christ alone. We will not speak and confess the truth on our own; we will do it only by the Holy Spirit as we submit to Christ. As we seek to love and speak the truth, let us draw comfort from the words of our Lord: “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God” (Lk. 12:8). Do not fear dearly beloved of Christ, your Savior has made you that promise.
This version of the Heidelberg Catechism is used by permission from the Standing Committee for the Publication of the Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC). It has been lightly revised and edited. You can find the CanRC version printed in their Book of Praise: Anglo-Genevan Psalter (http://bookofpraise.ca/).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.