Sometimes, in order to be truthful, you can’t be nice. Often the loving thing to say or do is not the nice thing. Many Christians have a difficult time saying and doing the right thing because the saying or the doing is not pleasant. I know that this is true for me. My natural inclination is to do what is socially acceptable and not to make waves.
I remember one conversation I had with some fellow passengers on a long plane flight from London to Johannesburg. The topic soon turned to spiritual things, which happens very readily since I’ve been with Jews for Jesus. All it takes is for someone to ask, What do you do?” or, in this case, “Why are you going to South Africa?” My answer automatically provokes further discussion.
It turned out that the woman sitting next to me practiced Sufism, a mystical brand of Islam. She shared with me how she had had profound religious experiences while meditating at special weekend seminars. She told me those seminars gave her a sense of being cleansed within and being at peace with herself.
The couple behind me were into the New Age movement. The wife had been raised in a mainstream Protestant church in the United States. The husband was from a Jewish family in South Africa. Both of them volunteered that they had read parts of the New Testament and that they loved Jesus. They also loved Buddha and Mohammed.
Now, put yourself in my situation. There you are on an airplane, and you have already been traveling for ten hours. You are tired and you are uncomfortable, and these people are smiling at you and telling you that they are believers. You know they are spiritually deceived and lost, but they don’t really think they are. What do you do? The socially acceptable response in this situation is to smile and say, “My, isn’t that interesting.” Certainly that is what my fellow passengers expected some ecumenical nicety that would affirm them in their deception. To be honest, that is exactly what I was inclined to do, but I didn’t. Instead, I told the couple that while I was happy that they had read some of the New Testament, they hadn’t read enough. I told them that the Jesus whom they said they loved also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). I said that Jesus was not willing to share their love with other spiritual guides. He claimed to be Lord of all, the only way of salvation. I challenged them to reread the entire New Testament and ask God to show them what was really true.
To the woman practicing Sufism, I said, “There are all kinds of spiritual experiences that people can have in this world. Yet such subjective experiences are not a reliable source for determining truth. God revealed His truth to us in the Bible. The Bible is the only reliable standard by which we can evaluate the disparate claims to truth of various religions and religious experiences.” I encouraged her to read the Bible and to ask God to show her if it was true.
After our conversation, I thought to myself, I was the only one in the group who felt the need to disagree with what the others were saying. Some might think that I was being intolerant, disagreeable and narrow, but as a follower of Yeshua, I have an imperative to tell others the truth. That means I need to be willing to challenge and oppose beliefs I know are false. I must disagree.
The pressure to hold back from saying something in those kinds of situations comes from a very human desire to be accepted by and acceptable to others. I believe that in the future, society will mount even greater pressures to silence religious dissent. It will be done in the name of tolerance and freedom, appealing to our sense of fair play. We believers in Yeshua want to be thought of as nice people. Will we sacrifice the truth of the gospel on the altar of public perception? I believe that in the near future we will be sorely tempted to do so.
I pray that we will find God’s strength not to yield to such temptation. I pray that both now and in the future we will answer as Peter and John answered before the Sanhedrin: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).