Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say
Here’s the truth …
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37 ESV).
I was at a greeting card shop and saw a decorative wooden block that said, “If you are handed it, you can handle it.” I shook my head. Really? That might be true, but just barely! And it certainly is not the preferred thing! Just because your hand can hold it doesn't mean you can handle it well! Someone can hand me a burning stick. I could take hold of it, but we all know that I will not be handling it well for very long.
Even worse, what if you are handed something awful like that and people who are supposed to care, supposed to notice, overlook you or silence you in order to further their own agenda? I’ve been there. My husband and I were champions for the truth with a group of people, standing firmly planted on the Word of God and upholding our convictions. Our reward? We were silenced, maligned, and kicked out of the group, still holding onto our burning stick. They did not seek to understand us or to search our hearts. They simply drew conclusions and made up versions about us that they could live with, all while our hands were burning to the point of carrying the scars all these months later.
What we have learned is that you must say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say you represent Jesus, then really represent Him and His Word. We have an event coming up where we will have to come face to face with those who have shunned us—the very kiss from Judas that Jesus Himself faced. How should we approach these people? With cat-like claws, ready to scratch? With my hand held up to them saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23 NIV)? Or … with love?
If I choose anything but love, then I am no better than the people who have sinned against me when I address their sin with arrogance and pride, as though I do not have sins of my own. God’s Word says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (1 John 1:8 NLT).
Jesus understood that. Mary Magdalene had seven demons within her when Jesus found her (Luke 8:2). That’s quite a bit of sin that she was carrying. And, yes, Jesus went looking for her and found her, probably sitting there carrying her burning stick! He meant it when He said that He would be the kind of shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to seek after the one who was lost (Luke 15).
And Jesus truly did seek us when others dropped us. He found us and picked us up and carried us to safe, green pastures. He was our Deliverer, our Provider. He gave us a new group, a new mission, a new path forward.
His provision is the exact definition of love, so I need to follow suit. “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). That means that I sin just as much as the people who hurt me sin, so I need to have patience with their human way of handling conflict. “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). That means that I must not shun them like they shunned us but should break bread with them as Jesus did with Judas at the Last Supper, knowing that he was going to betray Him (Matthew 26:21). Love “always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV). That means that just because I felt unprotected by them as they easily tossed me out of the pasture and didn’t leave the other sheep to chase after me, I should not do the same to them. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV). That means that I need to put it all out of my head, especially if I say that I have forgiven them. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37 ESV). People know us by our actions much more than our words. People can hear “I love you” multiple times over, but unless they are actually shown love, they won’t fully experience the warmth.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the very person who was sought out by Jesus and looked at with the kind of love spelled out in First Corinthians was the first person to seek out Jesus upon His death. Mary Magdalene was given that honor because she had felt His love in a way that the other disciples clearly had not. They, instead, hid in fear. My Pastor recently equated her with the homeless people in big cities. We walk past them because we don’t know how to engage them. But Jesus seeks them out and walks towards them! He walked towards Mary, knowing all about her demons. He looked into her soul and really saw her. As a result, she never forgot what that felt like. And we know what that feels like, too. Jesus alone holds the key to unlocking the longing in our souls. And the longing was only placed there because we experienced being overlooked, silenced, and shunned by others.
So, what do you do when you, too, have been overlooked, silenced, or shunned? You don’t avoid. You don’t hide. You represent Jesus with love for your enemies. That’s what I plan to do, because I know that “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
… and that’s the truth as I know it!