1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, we must not love [only] with word or speech, but with truth and action.” Of course, both words and deeds are part of our Christian witness. It may be our behavior that gets people’s attention, but we must then be able to articulate our faith so that they too can understand the Word and put it into practice.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:24). “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2 Thess. 2:16-17).
Boy, oh boy, this old world sure is in a mess. Actually, it has been since the First Adam chose to disobey his loving Creator and then spawned a race of humans beset with a sinful nature. And, as the salt of the earth and the lights of the world, you and I are currently faced with a relentless assault on our Father, our Lord, God’s Word, and ourselves as Christians. The good news is that amidst this chaos we are also presented with many opportunities to speak the truth in love or, more accurately, “truth it,” that is, BE TRUE TO TRUTH, in both our words and deeds (Eph. 4:15).
As Jesus told his followers, “If you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Each of us is surrounded by plenty of folks in that category, so let us seek our Lord’s guidance as to how to extend ourselves to do whatever will bless people and perhaps enlighten them as to how much God loves them and is FOR THEM. Doing so in today’s volatile culture will require us to strike the sometimes-elusive balance between love and truth, that is, loving people as Christ did but never compromising God’s truth, either in our behavior or in holding back when we know we should speak up.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is really fear.” Gandhi coined the term Satyagraha, or truth-force, which means to insist on the truth. The heart and soul of Satyagraha is resistance to any form of wrong-doing or unfreedom, and ranges from non-co-operation to civil disobedience, bound only by the limits set by non-violence.
The Philadelphia Statement, issued this past August 11, is the beginning of an ongoing movement to restore free speech and civil discourse in American law and culture. As per their website, “It affirms the uniquely American commitment to free speech. In today’s ‘cancel culture,’ people and groups of good will are too often demonized or blacklisted simply for expressing their views. This needs to stop. In these turbulent and polarized times, we must recommit to principles of freedom that inspire peaceful coexistence rather than division.” A recent Colson Report cited TPS, with commentary, as follows:[“Freedom of expression is in crisis. Truly open discourse—the debates, exchange of ideas, and arguments on which the health and flourishing of a democratic republic crucially depend—is increasingly rare. Ideologues demonize opponents to block debates on important issues and to silence people with whom they disagree.”
This paragraph is an answer to the well-meaning Christians who, at times, ask whether it is appropriate to be involved in “political debates” over things like free speech or religious freedom. Part of the Christian’s calling is to steward and protect good things. Freedom of expression is one of those good things, and not just for us. After all, a free marketplace of ideas provides the best opportunity for people to discover the Truth. Only when bad ideas aren’t silenced but rather met with better ideas can we truly learn. The Philadelphia Statement says it this way: “Dissenting and unpopular voices… have often guided our society toward more just positions.”
For the Christian, supporting free speech is evidence of our confidence in the Gospel. We believe Truth always will win out [with those who seek it], no matter which ideas oppose it. And, it’s only in the Gospel that we find any logical grounding for free expression in the first place. Again, here’s how the Statement puts it:
“If we seek a brighter future, we must relearn a fundamental truth—that our liberty and happiness depend upon the maintenance of a public culture in which freedom and civility co-exist…Only the Gospel has been able historically to ground any real sort of universal human dignity and respect, including for those with whom we disagree. Only if we acknowledge that each person is independently related to God, created in His image, and uniquely valuable regardless of anything else about them, can we establish cause to respect and protect their freedom of expression, no matter how wacky.
Whenever the Church is silent or marginalized, other cultural forces step in as a de facto Church, playing its societal role, only without any crucial grounding for objective truth or human value. In such a world, those in power, whether state forces or Twitter mobs, claim the authority to decide which ideas, and which people, are acceptable. Those deemed unacceptable are dismissed from publishing, from academic research and other university settings, from media platforms, or, in extreme cases throughout history, from existing.]
This brings to mind the following verses:
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.
Another Colson Report stated, “The only secure basis for human rights, of course, is the Christian belief that humans are created in the image of God. Think about that line from our founding documents: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” But it’s not self-evident that we are equal if we consider only the external attributes humans have. We don’t all share those attributes. We don’t all share the same height, weight, IQ, hair color, or skin tone. Thus, equality must be based on some universal human quality that is intrinsic to our humanity. Christianity offers this in the idea of the image of God.”
1 John 2:5 says: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” The following scriptures expand upon that truth:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Genuine godly love is not syrupy sentimentalism, far from it. It is the precise application of godly principles in our relationships with others. We are to love people like God does. Because God IS love, He hates evil. According to the following verses, so should we:
If only you, God, would slay the wicked. Away from me, you who are blood-thirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
In light of the rampant evil being rammed down our throats today, we must maintain the balance expressed in Ephesians 4:25-27, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
1 Peter 3:13-17
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Our Lord Jesus is the prime example of how to love the unlovable, including those who persecute us. It is he who prayed for those driving the spikes into him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The more intimate we are with our Savior, the more we too can have that mindset. It is also vital that we are intimate with other brethren in the household of God, as we absolutely need one another’s love, encouragement, and wisdom. I love the following verses:
1 Peter 5:6-11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
James 4:7 echoes verse 9 above: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” In closing, let these verses wash over you. Our Father and our Lord know us inside and out, and they have a personal curriculum for each of us all the days of our lives. They love your “desire for goodness,” and will energize your words and deeds to bring that to pass for you.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this teaching Jon Touchstone delves into the subject of morality showing us the law of God being the standard for moral strength – what is right and what is wrong. God wants us to know what is right and then have the discipline and courage to do it.
God’s Word warns us about the danger of keeping bad company because it corrupts good morals and good character. We look at examples of how cowardice can take the place of moral courage as it did with Adam and later King Saul, and how King David showed moral courage when he deliberately chose to fight Goliath.
We hope you’ll find this teaching powerful and encouraging.
Moral Strength and Moral Courage (54 mins)