Consider case A:
Mr. A sent his goons to rough up the man standing in front of them. Why? Because the man was a Christian who said he had been living with a clear conscience before God. That made Mr. A really angry. His lackeys smacked the Christian right across the mouth.
“God will smite you, you whitewashed wall!” said the Christian, fixing his gaze on Mr. A. “You are supposed to be upholding the law, yet you have me beaten unlawfully!”
Was that a proper response for a Christian? Should he have showed more love? Was he out of character to defend himself while at the same time using the phrase “whitewashed wall” to describe Mr. A as essentially having a good appearance which disguised a degraded inner being?
Or how about this (Case B):
The magistrates representing the rulers had arrested the preacher for speech which was contrary to the ordinances. After some appeals, the preacher was released, under the caveat that he not go back and preach again. He was back shortly after his release, preaching the same message he had been arrested for in open defiance of the edict of the authorities.
He had violated the edict of the rulers. Should he have stopped what he was doing. What if they re-arrested him? What kind of influence could he have, defying the ordinances of man and confined to a prison? Couldn’t he have toned down the message and over the years have had more influence?
And what about the following (Case C):
The marriage of a public leader was within the law. Yet the preacher felt compelled to tell him that it was not legal in God’s eyes. It might be okay by the laws of men, but it was wrong, wrong, wrong, in the eyes of God. The message of that preacher got him arrested, imprisoned, and facing death.
Should he not have kept quiet about the marriage, since the laws accepted it? Why should he speak out in such a way that he put his life in jeopardy? Isn’t a living dog better than a dead lion?
One more example (Case D):
Religious people were having a debate. The parties were so far apart that one said to the others, “You don’t have any truth in you. In fact, you have descended from a snake and you are just like him.”
Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of his position, should this party have been perhaps a bit more gentle in his remonstrance with his counterparts? Could he have shown a little more love and acceptance even though he disagreed?
All these cases have one thing in common: they all were recorded in the Bible. Case A is when Paul was taken before Ananias, who had him punched in the face. Paul did not seem to know it was the high priest, but though he said it was not right to speak evil of the ruler, he did not retract his statement. Instead, seeing the multitude around him was diverse, he shouted out that he was defending the resurrection. A riot broke out between the pro-resurrection and anti-resurrection parties and soldiers were dispatched to rescue Paul from the rampaging mob.
Case B is when Peter was arrested for preaching Jesus. His response to those who told him to quit was that he was under the authority of God Himself and given the mandate to preach Jesus to all the world, beginning right there in Jerusalem. He continued to preach. (The case also greatly resembles that of John Bunyan, who without a license preached Christ and landed in a jail. Years later, Pilgrim’s Progress was published. It had been written by Bunyan in prison.)
Case C is the account of John the Baptist, who told Herod that his marriage to his brother’s wife was unlawful. If he would have just minded his own business, some would say, he could have saved his life. But he, as well as many others after him, felt that it was his business to love people enough to tell them the truth, even though it was uncomfortable. And he did die, cutting his ministry short.
Case D is about Jesus. He was in a debate with the Pharisees. He did not feel it incumbent on himself to tell them nice things about their religion or their self-worth. He told them the truth. They were of their father the devil and did the works of their father. They were a brood of snakes.
These accounts give us some direction when it comes to dealing with our adversaries. Paul’s example indicates that we do not silently allow ourselves to be wrongly indicted by authorities bent on silencing Christians. (If you doubt that is what some are trying to do, consider that the current U.S. President has indicated that gay marriage is more important than freedom of religion. “Our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights,” he said, addressing LGBT people at a Democrat fundraiser on September 27. The invention of constitutional rights for what was illegal activity during the writing of our Constitution is astounding, but not unexpected, since Roe v. Wade did the same thing for the out-of-thin-air invention of the right to abortion.)
Peter’s example indicates the importance of maintaining the message that Jesus is the one way to God. It was an insult to truth when just after 9/11 then President Bush promoted an ecumenical prayer service including leaders of absolutely false religions. (Think about Elijah on Mt. Carmel, asking the prophets of Baal to hold a joint prayer session with the understanding that they were serving the same God. What he did was to show, and actually mock, the false gods as false, and after he did to have hundreds of false prophets executed.) Equally outrageous was the recent joint prayer session of the Pope with Moslems. Peter was not deterred and continued to preach Jesus, despite the threats.
Nor should we keep silent about so-called “social issues” when the insider crowd tells us that we should make nice with those who are blatantly violating God’s laws. What good are preachers who don’t preach against sin? What of the watchman on the wall who sees the enemy approaching and keeps silent? The blood is on his hands.
Finally, Jesus showed us that being meek in God’s eyes does not mean that we keep silent in the presence of the antagonists of truth. He called them out as children of the devil. How stark. How intolerant. How tone deaf. Yet He was right.
In this day we are almost expected to advocate that love super-cedes truth. So tone down the truth. In contrast, these examples show us that truth spoken in love is sometimes tough. Sometimes the most loving thing to tell rebels is that “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps.7:11).