Jesus said, “... you shouldn’t swear on oath at all... Instead, what you should say is simply ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no,’ for what goes beyond these originates with the Evil One.”
— Matthew 5:34, 37 (USC)
“Lord, I am a man of unclean lips.”
How could we not but agree with this sentiment of Isaiah’s? His call is marked with the stain of his own sin, acknowledged and then repented of. If we are honest we also acknowledge and repent. We are, because of a myriad of relational and character constraints, people of unclean lips.
And yet, due Christ, we are covered, sanctified afresh, indeed made new – as we rely on God in our tenuous moments. Only as we are prayerfully mindful of God in the moment of our temptation to speak untruth or misrepresent the truth are we able to resist the temptation.
We get better such mindfulness the more we practice moral awareness.
As we train under the Holy Spirit’s guidance we are given rebuke, encouragement, and guidance. We have God ‘speaking’ to us by his still silent voice operating through our consciences.
It may seem that the Christian life has had all its fun lapped out of it, but it’s the reverse:
Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986) said in his expansive commentary on the Sermon On the Mount, Life Can Begin Again, “Only the person who is under Jesus Christ gains the freedom to be truthful...”
If we pique our awareness to such a degree as to glaze each word that comes from our lips in truth we have some sense of imperfect mastery over what we say and how we say it.
The freedom to be truthful is a blessing afforded to the courageous person who walks by faith, not by sight. They are not impinged by relational compromise because their characters are surrendered to the Lord.
Think of the power exacted for life when we say what we mean and mean what we say. The courage to communicate truthfully is a blessing to both the initiator and the responder. Both benefit from the frank and authentic relationship. And it honours God, because we have – in that interaction – brought the will of heaven to reside here on earth.
Truth-telling is a freeing exercise, because, in refusing to betray, we have decided that we are harmful to no one.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Where do you struggle to tell truth? Is it overt lie-telling or covert omission (or both)?
2. How much is non-truth-telling a response to fear, i.e. a lack of courage?
3. What strategies for truth-telling can you employ?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.