Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the sake of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.Philippians 1:27-28a
I’ve heard it said “Speak the truth, and if necessary, use words.” I think there is some validity to this. Our conduct, the way we carry ourselves, the way we care for others, our passion for justice, etc., should represent Christ. It should be evident that there is something different about us.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.2 Corinthians 2:15-17
But representing Christ in our actions is not where our responsibility, where our witness, ends. Christ sat with people and listened to their stories, and ate with them, and worked with them, and walked with them. And he spoke to them. He spoke the truth always, sometimes in stories and metaphors, sometimes boldly and to the point. He did not beat around the bush when it came to matters of justice. He did not suggest that people probably should start sinning less if they could get around to it. He called out injustice and self-righteousness where he saw it. He told people to go and sin no more.
To be quite honest, my tendency is to think like this, “Why do I need to say anything? Everything has already been said. I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation and I don’t have any new, intriguing way of expressing it. Besides, what if I say something wrong and hurt someone and ruin my reputation? I’d better just keep quiet.” So I end up saying nothing—because I am safer. I value self-preservation and my comfort over speaking the truth no matter the cost, and that is selfish and wrong of me.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:11-16
Sometimes, truth needs to be expressed so that someone knows that they are seen and valued as the image bearer of God that they are. They need to hear truth expressed because they are giving up hope that truth matters, that justice will prevail. And sometimes, you need to speak truth because you need to be faithful to your calling as a follower of Christ. Even if you mess up, which you will, keep speaking the truth. Don’t apologize for it. Don’t water it down. Christ said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Not peacekeepers, peacemakers. Often, making peace means speaking truth, which can be difficult and confrontational and scary. You can speak the truth in love, in deed. We are told to speak it in that way. True love cares so much for others that it must point out sin and injustice, because it is the most loving thing to do. It is hard, but so worth it!
These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.Zechariah 8:16-17
The truth doesn’t need fancy trappings to make it more appealing. It doesn’t need extensive vocabulary to get its point across. It doesn’t need to be spoken by someone with prestige and influence to make an impact. Truth can stand on its own two feet, and it doesn’t need me, or you, to hold its hand. It was around before us and it will be around after us. But the truth does need to be spoken. What truth do you need to speak today, and who needs to hear it? Don’t wait another hour—speak it today.