A little while back, I had a revealing conversation with a Christian minister friend of mine. He recounted a time when he was called away and asked a well qualified minister associate to attend to his pastoral duties. When he returned the overwhelming feedback from his congregation was that this person had performed outstandingly. What my minister friend deliberately neglected to tell his people was that his stand-in was gay. Not that it should have mattered, but he knew if he had told them the feedback would have been negative.
My point is neither to condone nor condemn my friend’s action but, rather, having had many private conversations with people in similar positions, I am aware the impression presented in public does not always match what Christian leaders think in private and the dilemma many often face is what to share, with who, and how, why, when and where. As folk who read my blogs know, I am not shy coming forward when it comes to speaking as I find and this has often led me into trouble, long before Brexit, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson. Reactions, spoken and unspoken, range from me portrayed as a “plonker” to that of a hero for doing as I do.
As I have often said, being open and the pursuit of and fight for truth is of paramount importance, and for any serious in pursuing this path, which is what I urge, there is often a price to pay and hard lessons to learn. Sometimes, I have spoken out because lies being told needs countering and it is the truth that sets us free. Other times, it is a matter of buttoning one’s lip, because one does not have possession of all the pertinent facts or because the damage resulting from forthrightness negates the good that might ensue or the price to pay is too high (which fortunately, here in the UK and at this time, unlike in many other places in the world today and many other times in the British past is less of an issue). Sometimes it is quite innocent, like posting on Facebook I was watching a secular film on a Sunday or with my use of colorful language. It is well to recognise, however well intentioned, one might be misunderstood and worse still attract mischief makers with axes to grind. There is something to be said about the wisdom of keeping one’s own counsel. As one of my early blogs argued, before speaking ask the following questions: is what I am about to say true; is it necessary and is it kind?
It brings me to a word that is often used in the Bible as it is at the heart of its message; that word is grace. According to Strong’s dictionary: “(Greek) xáris (another feminine noun from xar-, “favor, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit”) – properly, grace. (xáris) is preeminently used of the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is “always leaning toward them”)”. It seems to me that being kindly, sensitively, practically disposed and generous toward others, especially those who are in a position of weakness and vulnerability, is an essential counter balance for any who aspire to major on speaking the truth, come what may.
In my next scheduled preaching engagement, I intend to speak on the following verse concerning Jesus: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” John 1:14. As I was exhorted many years back, when I preach I need to leave my hangups behind me and focus on that which will encourage. I would therefore urge people to follow the example of Jesus, full of grace and truth and who yet paid a high price for being so.