My Truth Bat
1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
Twenty-five years ago, I found myself in Mexico, going door to door, trying to explain to random Mexicans how they were sinners and lost without Christ. We were on a mission to tell the truth, so we got out our truth bats and we started swinging. You are a sinner, you are going to hell and you need Jesus. I do not speak Spanish well, so I am not entirely sure, but I do not think we made much of an impact. Maybe we planted a seed, but I think the only thing compelling about us was that we were a bunch of South Dakotans wandering around way south of our border.
As Christians, Peter says we are to tell others of the hope that is within us. He says we are to tell this truth with love, in gentleness and respect. I have failed miserably at this in my life. I have seen my faith as something I express in truth or I have seen it as something I express in love, but I have a hard time doing both. It is either; You are terrible, would you like to accept Christ? Or, Here, let me love you, but I really don’t want to talk about God.
I try to do both by insisting that the most loving thing I can do is tell the truth. I equate love with truth and thereby excuse myself from doing any of the things Christ talked about when He commanded us to love our neighbor. If I just tell people the truth, I really don’t have to love them as I’ve already hit them with my truth bat. Love and truth however, are not the same.
For some reason, it is really hard to do both. When we try to love, others think we embrace everything about them, so it is difficult to communicate the truth. When we swing the truth bat, we communicate hate. As Christians, we have often erred in embracing one or the other. It is either, I love you, or, I am going to beat you with the truth.
So how am I to do it? How do I speak truth without communicating hate? How do I love without abandoning truth? I do not know that this is exactly how you are to do it, but I have found that sharing my faith has become very natural in telling my own story to those who are aware of their need. Call me lazy or call me a coward, but I do not spend much time trying to convince anyone of his or her need. As Jesus said, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12).
So, I go to those who know they are sick and in need and I tell them of my sickness and of my need. I go to places like the local jail and transitional housing unit. There, I do not have to spend time and effort convincing others of their need, as they are already quite aware. In love, then, I can tell them my story, which seems to be the key to opening the door to the gospel. For me, sharing my faith is just that, telling my story. In love, I can share this truth. Jesus saved me from myself. He can save you from yourself.