I came to a realization today. One that has been sort of creeping up on me over the past few weeks and months. I'm not direct enough about my faith. And it's time for that to change.
I've had a few conversations with people lately about how important it is to be up front about things. Not just to people who don't believe the Bible, but to other Christians as well. I haven't been good at sharing the truth with just about anyone. And it's time to change that.
It may have started when I was in college. Derrick and I were talking today about how the church I grew up in decided they were going to stop having a youth group for the teens, because it was a program, and programs are bad (which actually is true, or at least, they don't do much good). So they had this meeting to tell the teens about it and let them ask questions. It was right after I graduated from highschool, and my sister was still in the group, so since I happened to be home that weekend, I went to the meeting. Basically the pastor said it should be up to the families to teach the teens, and create fun things for them to do, and it shouldn't be run by the church. Which was all well and good, except that would mean the teens would have nothing, because there were only one or two parents who were willing to make this happen. And I made sure I pointed it out at that meeting. I was very clear and direct, and spoke out for what I believed.
Derrick's response to my story was, "Well, what happened?"
"With the youth group?" I asked him.
"No, what happened? Why don't you speak up any more about things?"
Hmm. Good question.
I guess it's because during the course of that year, I became more and more outspoken, and not in a good way. I started using it as an excuse to blast people, or take my frustrations out on them. It made people angry and made me feel awful. So at some point, I just stopped telling people what I think. I think it was around the time I went to LBC. It was a chance to start over, and I had already gotten myself in lots of hot water with people during my first two years of college because I was too harsh with my words at times. But you know how it's so easy to go from one extreme to the other? Well, that's exactly what I did. I went from too much honesty to too much silence. I bottled things up, and in a way, I still do. I became really good at telling people what they want to hear, or at least, giving them a response that was sort of true, but only the non-offensive stuff. I have done this a lot with unbelievers. And I wonder, how much do I care about them? How loving am I, if I only tell them a half-truth about God? It may keep them from getting mad at me, but in the end doesn't teach them a thing about who He is, and what He has done for us, and their need for a Savior. All I did was serve myself by staying on their good side.
But it's not just unbelievers. I've done this with Christians, too. And that's just as bad. I'd rather have them be happy with me and think I'm a nice, accepting person than tell them like it is. I hate having people dislike me, and I hate conflict. So it's really hard for me to proclaim the truth. But I'm finally realizing how wrong that is. And not just because I'm shirking my responsibilities, but because I'm not showing love to them! Instead, I'm protecting myself. And that's just plain selfishness.
It's taken me a long time to be able to be open since I moved here. And it's not just because I wasn't accepted by everyone. It's because I hadn't been living my life totally for Christ before I came here. I was living for myself, and it wasn't really something I was ready to let go of. But God is changing my heart, and teaching me that He wants me to take the next step. I need to grow. I climbed to the top of a really big hill, leaning on Jesus with every step. Now I'm there, and He's saying, "OK, let's tackle the next one now."
So I need to step up my game. I need to live more boldly for Christ. This means holding other believers accountable when I see them clearly going against God's Word. It means proclaiming the truth of the gospel to everyone I know, and not shying away from discussions that could lead to some conflict. I guess it means I'm trying to find the balance between the way I used to be, which was to be controlled by emotion and come across as judgmental and hypocritical, and the way I am right now, which is to avoid anything that might cause tension or disagreement, making me passive and selfish. I want the middle ground, which is to speak boldly and assertively, but with love and grace. The Bible says,
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
(Colossians 4:6 ESV)
This is exactly what I want. I want to obey God and speak up for what is right. But I also want to be loving, kind, and compassionate, just like Jesus was. He never hesitated to point out sin, but He treated people with true compassion. It was the perfect balance. I will never achieve perfection, but I can strive to follow Jesus' example. I am so thankful that as a believer in Christ, I have the Holy Spirit, who is God, working in and through me to make me more like Himself! What an amazing, and real blessing that we get to experience! It's God's strength and power that gets me through these struggles, and helps me to grow in my relationship with Him and others. :o)
Oh, and one more thing. The natural progression of this openness is that it should also cause me to not be so easily offended myself, and be able to accept Biblical constructive criticism. As long as it's from Christ, and not just someone's opinion, I should be able to take it in and learn from it. This goes both ways! :o)