I have a bad habit that I have been aware of for a good portion of my life. As much as I have attempted to get rid of this bad habit, it creeps back into my life from time to time, and it has the the potential to be a really bad thing. On the surface it might not actually seem like such a bad thing, but let me explain. You see, I struggle with being a “people pleaser”.
What I mean by that is I sometimes try to keep everyone happy instead of speaking truth when I know it needs to be spoken. This can really become a problem when you are dealing with someone that clearly has a wrong idea of theology. I do not like conflict, so instead of speaking up and trying to correct someone when they have something wrong, I go quiet.
Yes, you could argue there is nothing wrong doing that by quoting Romans 12:18, in which Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This verse seems to say that if it is at all possible on our end, to live at peace. If you look at just that verse, then you could make the argument trying to avoid conflict at all costs is what we are called to do. This is where context is of utmost importance. Paul writes this also in Romans 12:14-21;
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
When you look at it in context, Paul is writing about not taking revenge on someone that has done you wrong. It really has nothing to do with correcting someone who has a wrong idea about what scripture says. In fact, I believe that it can be argued Paul would actually instruct us to correct those fellow Christians that seem to be in the wrong. The trick is to do so in love. Paul writes to Timothy in II Timothy 3:16-7, “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So scripture is to be used to teach, correct, train, and even rebuke. This is why my self-assessment of being a “people pleaser” in regards to shutting down and not speaking up when I notice someone using an incorrect assessment of scripture is dangerous, especially in my calling as a preacher. Solomon even wrote in Proverbs 28:23, “Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.”
What has started me thinking about all of this recently? I was in a situation recently in which this exact scenario happened. Let me explain. My wife and I were talking about the weather forecast in our area with some other people a few days ago. In a span of three or four days, the high temperature was supposed to go from the high 70’s to the mid 30’s and then back up into the 50’s. It never fails when the temperatures change so drastically like that, I end up sick. In fact, the temperature has been fluctuating (not as drastically) for about a month, and I have been battling a head cold most of that time.
So we were discussing the upcoming weather changes, and I stated that I knew I was probably going to get even sicker because of it. That is when one of the people that we were talking to brought in some incorrect understandings of scripture.
This person told me that I should never speak negatively (there is something to say about being positive, however, stating that I know I am probably going to get sick is being honest, not negative). Then they said that “the devil hears everything we say, not everything we think, but he hears everything we say”. That would mean that Satan is omnipresent, if he hears everything that everyone says everywhere. I do not know anywhere in scripture that backs up this claim. You could make the argument that maybe it is not Satan, but either him or one of his fallen angels that hears what we say, but even that may be a stretch.
That was not the worst part of what was said. The person then went on to quote a partial verse from Isaiah 53:5, “…by His stripes we are healed”, arguing that by quoting that and believing it, I would not get a cold because of the changing temperatures. I believe with all my heart in the healing power of Jesus, but nowhere in scripture does it tell us that if we are followers of Christ we will never be sick. Isaiah 53 is not about our physical health. It is a prophecy about Jesus going to the cross, taking our place and paying the debt for our sin. In other words, by His stripes, our sin is healed. It means nothing about our physical health.
Instead of saying any of this, I just got quiet and wanted the conversation to be over. A little later, while talking to my wife about how incorrect this understanding of scripture was, I made a statement that I chose to not say anything at the time “so I did not destroy” the person that said it. In other words, I did not say anything because I did not want to make the other person feel bad.
But this situation has been rolling around in my mind since. I have not been able to get away from it. The question I have been battling is this; was choosing to stay silent in an effort to keep from hurting this person’s feelings really the best course of action? Yes, I stayed out of a potential confrontation, but this person still has an incorrect understanding of scripture. Would they have listened to me and realized the error? Maybe, maybe not. But since I did not try to use scripture to correct and teach, they still have this incorrect understanding of scripture.
I want to make one thing clear. I am not saying that I have a full grasp of everything scripture teaches, or I am always correct in my understanding of scripture. But in this case, I know Isaiah 53 is talking about Jesus healing our sin, not physical ailments.
I write all of this for two reasons. First, specifically for me in an effort to call myself out about being a “people pleaser”. In no way do I want to become the type of person who is cruel and wants to offend people with what I say or how I say it. But I need to stop worrying about potentially hurting someone’s feelings when I am presented the opportunity to use scripture to teach someone. Second, I want to challenge you to do the same. We have to stop worrying about offending someone when we are speaking the truth. People’s eternities could be on the line. We need to take Paul’s advice from II Timothy, and teach, correct, train, and rebuke, using scripture to do so.
Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak