Ways we can learn the truth about others
Have you heard this popular saying? “Who am I to judge?” It sounds nice, but did you know Christians are commanded in Scripture to judge?
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 says, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.”
Much like a judge, we are to discern whether an action is right or wrong based upon Scripture. It is our responsibility to help our friends when they are immersed in sin. Judgment has its place within the church body, but it is not the same as condemnation.
Judgment says, “What you are doing is wrong, what can I do to help you?” Condemnation says, “What you are doing is wrong, and you are a terrible person for doing it.” See the difference?
“A friend loves at all times,” Proverbs 17:17.
That means in the good times and the bad times. Even when a friend is doing something they shouldn’t be doing, we should still love them. But love doesn’t mean letting someone engage in destructive behaviors.
Make sacrifices when appropriate, like offering to have your friend call you day or night if they need you. Encourage them to attend church regularly. Help them connect with a mature believer who will mentor them into maturity.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” Hebrews 10:24-25.
It’s not enough to point out someone’s sin. It’s equally important to help them stay away from repeating the same sin over and over again. Accountability is a great way to help a person get rid of sin. But accountability is more than listening to someone talk about their sin.
Accountability falls flat when the person confesses and their friend, charged with holding them accountable, simply acknowledges it or worse – says, “It’s ok.” The person needs to know that sin is not ok. Brainstorm practical ways to help the sinner get out (and stay away) from sinful behaviors.
Firmly state what they are doing is not ok. Jesus, after healing the man in John 5, follows him to the Temple. There He says, “Stop sinning, or something worse might happen to you.”
Before he knew Jesus, this man was blind to his sin. But once He became a follower of Christ, he was held to a higher standard. We should also be held to a higher standard. Jesus didn’t let the man continue in his sin, and we can’t allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to continue that way either.
Make it a priority to check in with your friend often. The more time goes by, the more likely we are to forget to help. If you can’t meet in person, text or email. This helps to remind your friend that you care about their plight. A simple message like, “I’m praying for you,” will communicate a message of love to your friend.
Confronting a friend is always tough. It’s messy and at times, and it’s scary because it can go wrong and destroy a friendship. But no matter what the result, if you “speak the truth in love,” rest easy in knowing you are doing the right thing. You may ibnot see reconciliation between you, but you may eventually see repentance and a reconciled relationship with God in heaven, and that’s the best reward of all.
Importance of dialogue
Dialogue is: a form of discussion aimed at fostering mutual insight and common purpose. The process involves listening with empathy, searching for common ground, exploring new ideas and perspectives, and bringing unexamined assumptions into the open.
Long-standing stereotypes can be dissolved, mistrust overcome, and visions shaped and grounded in a shared sense of purpose. People previously at odds with one another can come into alignment on objectives and strategies. New perspectives and insights can be gained, new levels of creativity stimulated, and bonds of community strengthened.
Unlike debate, it doesn’t involve arguing for a point of view, defending a set of assumptions, or critiquing the positions of others. Unlike negotiation or consensus-building, it’s not a method of reaching agreement or arriving at decisions. And unlike discussion, it can only emerge when participants trust and respect each other, suspend their judgments, and listen deeply to all points of view.
- The focus is on common interests, not divisive ones
- The dialogue and decision-making processes are separated
- Assumptions that can lead to distortions of certain points of view are clarified and brought into the open
- People are encouraged to reveal their own insights and assumptions before speculating on those of others
- Concrete examples are used to raise general issues
- The process focuses on conflicts between value systems, not people
- When appropriate, participants are encouraged to express emotions accompanying strongly held values
- Participants err on the side of including people who disagree
- They encourage relationships in order to humanize transactions
- They minimize the level of mistrust before pursuing practical objectives
How to overcome obstacles to dialogue
The Magic of Dialogue, written in 1999 by the late social scientist Daniel Yankeolvich suggests numerous effective ways of removing barriers to dialogue and these are:
Starting with different levels of understanding
Dialogue participants often find themselves at different stages in what Yankelovich calls “the judgment curve,” the process of gaining knowledge. Some people in the discussion are just learning about the topic, while others have thought about it for weeks or even months and have resolved the issue for themselves.
How to overcome the obstacle
Invest time in briefing participants so that everyone can get on the same page. And Yankelovich advises allocating “extra time for dialogue. Use the time to invite those who are further along in the process of resolution to recount how and why their thoughts evolved, permitting those in earlier stages of resolution to ask them questions and compare experiences.”
Obstacle 2: Holding back
In every group of people, there will be those who are very comfortable expressing themselves. But others are introverted or timid. In any case, writes Yankelovich, some people, at least in the early stages, “hold back, unwilling to commit themselves. A key reason that people don’t participate is that they don’t feel trust. Because dialogue is so open, a certain amount of self-exposure is involved in it.”
How to overcome the obstacle
Break the ice. “The approach I like best is to go around the room and ask each participant to say something about his or her own personal past experience that relates to the topic” being discussed, Yankelovich writes. “Eliciting this experience encourages people to move deeply into the subject because they are talking about their own lives and experiences.”
Obstacle 3: Listening without hearing
A common obstacle is that some people don’t make an extra effort to understand others when they are not wholly articulate. “Most people, especially when conflict-ridden, are unaccustomed to finding the rights words and phrases to express their feelings,” writes Yankelovich. Ideally, everyone involved in a dialogue practice empathic listening, the ability to tune in to other people’s feelings. But often, especially when tensions are high, impatient listeners just forge ahead.
How to overcome the obstacle
You know this already: The most useful technique is for participants to paraphrase what they think they heard the other person say. Even if the person speaking has been misunderstood, the act of other participants’ playing back what they think they heard gives the speaker the opportunity to correct or amplify his/her position.
Obstacle 4: Showboating
Showboating, which Merriam Webster defines as “trying to to attract attention by conspicuous behavior,” is all too common even among the highest level of leaders. “People, men in particular, can’t resist the chance to show off how much they know, how smart they are, how tough-minded they can be, and how active they are as players in the game,” writes Yankelovich.
How to overcome the obstacle
Yankelovich advises adding extra time for dialogue because “in most instance, the urge subsides once the showboaters have had a chance to express themselves.” In addition, I’ve found that breakout exercises, especially those involving non-verbal activities like creating a poster, helps manage showboaters. When people have to work together to figure out a problem or build something, the focus is on accomplishing the task, not making a speech.
Obstacle 5: Prematurely moving to action
I’m guilty of this, which Yankelovich calls a “distinctly American problem. In a typical discussion, almost as soon as a problem surfaces, someone is bound to say, ‘Well, what are we going to do about it?'” writes Yankelovich. “End of dialogue about problem; beginning of a rush of ideas for leaping into the fray and doing something, almost anything, as long as it smacks of taking action rather than more sitting around and talking.” The problem is that a focus on swift action “short-circuits the process of probing the depths of other participants’ thoughts, perceptions, feelings and assumptions that can provide a foundation for informed decision-making.”
How to overcome the obstacle
Pause and ask team members whether or not more dialogue is needed. Sometimes the problem is lack of mutual understanding and a premature rush to action can only worsen it. So ask participants if they’re really ready to make a shared decision. If anyone says, “Let’s keep talking,” then give the group more time to work things through.
Why is it difficult to know the truth
The real Truth is knowledge, the only special thing about it is that it is the underlying root of everything it manifests upon. Manifestation of the Truth happens when it is spread through people who thinks differently from one another and they choose parts of the Truth according to their own limited understanding. When this occurs, the Truth is further distorted and people interpret the distorted Truth according to their own selfish desires.
After a length of time and by the people’s own limited perception of the Truth, the real Truth breaks up into many fragmented pieces and are scattered all over the place. It is like a clear piece of glass broken by its mishandling, the whole piece of glass breaks up into many tiny raw pieces. Therefore at this point the Whole Truth is broken into its own single properties, each small piece is unrecognized as part of the Truth unless it is interconnected with the other small pieces to once again become the Whole Truth.
Jesus is the truth
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6.
God’s Word is true, and the Word becameand dwelt among us. (John 1:14) So the truth is the life of Jesus – which is to be manifested in us. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20.
The truth that Jesus came to bring
He said in John 18:37, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”
Jesus can testify to the truth and teach the truth because he himself is that truth. In him there is nothing false, nothing misleading, and nothing fake or uncertain.
He is the beginning and culmination of all that has been true throughout eternity, and that to seek the truth ultimately leads us to seek him.
When we seek to figure out what is the truth and what is a lie, we can measure it against the words of Jesus, who himself is the truth.
How God speaks to us today
1. Through His Word in general.
2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is “God-breathed.” His Word sometimes gives us a warning, a word of encouragement, or a lesson for life. It’s ”His-story”–written with love as God’s guide for life, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2. Through His Son, Jesus Christ
The New Testament was the fulfillment of God’s special plan. It’s the gospel: the good news of Jesus Christ. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV).
Through the words of Jesus in Scripture, we can “hear” God’s heart and God’s voice–and know what God is truly like. These words were not written for a few, select individuals who could jump through the right spiritual hoops (“For God so loved the world…”). Someone in Africa, in Germany, in China, and in Alabama can “hear” Jesus’ voice by reading the same Bible.
3. Through Nature and God’s Creation
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse ” Romans 1:20, NIV). Through the intricate details and magnificent beauty of all that God has made, we can “hear” His voice. How? By observing the ant’s strength to store up food all summer long, we learn about wisdom and industriousness. By studying the heavens, we understand more of God’s greatness. And through planting and growing a garden, we “hear” about miracles of death and rebirth. God designed–and spoke them all into existence.
4. Through Other Believers
God may use a friend, a teacher, a parent, or a preacher to convey His message of truth to us. Their words may come as a warning, a blessing, or as a prophetic truth about our lives.Whether we choose to hear it or ignore it, depends on us. Do their words line up with Scripture? Will God confirm or affirm that truth in us? “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere” (James 3:17, NIV).
5. Through Music
Praise brings me instantly to attention, like a sergeant’s command to his soldiers. The words and the notes bring a soothing comfort, excitement, and passion that open my ears and heart and lift my spirits immediately.
God “spoke” clearly. He released His power, and Jehoshaphat’s army defeated their enemies!
6. Through Circumstances
When others claim to hear God through circumstances, I try to caution them to test their conclusions with other evidence. God is a Holy God, and often uses circumstances to get our attention. But He will usually confirm it in other ways.
Through Moses, God used circumstances (plagues) to convince Egypt’s leader to release God’s people from slavery. But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.
Sometimes God uses our circumstances to test our faith. We don’t always know how to interpret the things that happen to us.
7. Through His Spirit
I once heard someone teach about “minding the checks” in your spirit. Some may call it “God’s whispers,” while others say, “God’s still, small voice.” We are made in the image of God, and when we confess Jesus and follow Him as our Lord and Savior, His Spirit comes to live in us (John 14:17, 1 Corinthians 3:16). God’s Spirit speaks to us through our conscience, helping to make the right decision. When we’re tempted, that same Spirit warns and nudges us to do the right thing.
8. Through Prayer
Each way I’ve shared that God may speak to us today meshes into the other. God often speaks to us through His Spirit, through prayer. We may not know how to pray, but God’s Word tells us His spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27).
Often through a combination of fasting and prayer, our minds become clearer and our hearts are more sensitive to God. Again, we may not hear God’s literal voice, but His Spirit confirms a certain direction or answer for us. As the distractions fade, we can sense His leading in a new way. Sometimes while praying, God’s Spirit will remind us of a Scripture or a truth in His Word that we can directly apply to the situation.
Why people at times distort the truth or tell lies
- Sarcasm is when someone says one things but means the opposite. For example – in response to hearing someone burp, someone else might say ‘how polite’. The easiest way of picking up on sarcasm is by listening to the tone of voice. You may need to defend yourself against sarcasm at times and this will be covered in the following chapters.
- Not knowing the truth is a common reason why people might distort it.
- A particularly nasty form of distorted truth is ‘scape-goating‘. This is setting up other people to take the blame for things which aren’t their fault. What is even worse is having someone deliberately do something wrong for the sole purpose of getting you blamed for it. If this happens you must first work out whether it is just a joke or whether it is a serious set-up. If it is serious and the blame successfully reaches you, you may need to somehow prove that the wrong doing was not your fault in which case you must tell the right people that you think you’ve been set up and stick to your word.
- On the other hand someone might quite innocently create a false truth for the mere purpose of fantasy play. This might apply to children pretending to be comic cartoon heroes, adults dressed up in costume pretending to be Father Christmas or someone who is acting in a play.
- If someone asks you a question and giving them the true answer might upset them or cause embarrassment or unfair trouble to other people you may decide to tell a ‘white lie‘ which is intended to avoid unpleasantness all round.
- If you don’t wish to lie you might still want to withhold the truth. You might be keeping a secret for someone or you might be trying to keep yourself or others out of trouble. In this case it may be sensible to avoid certain topics of conversation, otherwise you might be forced into pretending not to know something using awkward diversion tactics (which often involve humour) or even lying. Also you may be expected to automatically know when something is to be kept a secret.
- If someone tries to get a message across to you without hurting you, they might decide to drop a hint. The best example of this is when a man is chatting up a woman but she doesn’t want to go out with him in which case instead of saying ‘I’m not interested, go away’ she might slip the words ‘my boyfriend’ into the conversation.
- Sometimes it is possible to be misled by figures of speech (i.e. metaphors). For example ‘I’m over the moon’ means I’m very happy. If figures of speech are a problem for you, they can be looked up in certain books or you can get someone to teach you some.
- Sometimes someone might lie to you if they want something from you. The best example of this is a door-to-door salesman who wants your money. If he sells you a television that doesn’t work then he would be conning you.
- In conversation it is not unusual for people to exaggerate. Someone who says ‘I had about ten pints last night’ might actually mean they only had five. People who exaggerate too much can easily be misinterpreted.
- If someone says something which sounds offensive in the literal sense ‘You ugly mug face’ but with a laugh and a smile, then they mean it as a joke. You often need to pick up on this quite quickly.
- Perhaps the most awkward kind of lies you encounter are teasing lies in which someone says something as a joke to see whether or not you believe them. If what they have just said is highly unlikely or people around them are trying not to laugh, they are probably teasing you. The correct response to this would be to laughingly tell them to p*ss off. If you show doubt as to whether or not they are teasing you, they may see it as a sign of vulnerability. Remember they are probably never going to admit that they are teasing you, no matter how seriously you ask.
- People might start trying to persuade you to make a spectacle of yourself somehow. For example they may ask you to do a dance or sing a song. Even if you can’t see anything wrong with this yourself, it is important not to give in to them, no matter how persuasive they become. The correct response is the same as that for a teasing lie, only perhaps with a touch of anger. If you give in to such requests, you will probably become an all-round target for other people’s teasing. If you have already done this in the past, don’t worry, just don’t let it continue.
- If ever joining in games like ‘truth or dare’ or ‘strip poker’ you could find yourself under even greater pressure to do something. In this case it is often all right but you might be asked to do something which is completely ‘out of order’ in which case if people become too persuasive you might just prefer to leave the room. If they are true friends, they won’t hold it against you for more than a day.
- It must be remembered that not everyone is loyal to the truth. Also, many people select certain parts of the truth and reject others to their own advantages (e.g. in court cases).
- If you need to find out whether or not someone is lying and you have a good reason for doing so, asking them questions might reveal faults in their logic.
Jesus’ teaching about the truth
(Matthew 5: 37, John. 8: 33)
Matthew 5:37 (NIV)
“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
Jesus is referring to the ceremonious way in which Jews, particularly the Pharisaic types, took oaths. It was one of the things in the culture of the time.
The first was what might be called frivolous swearing, taking an oath where no oath was necessary or proper. It had become far too common a custom to introduce a statement by saying, “By thy life,” or, “By my head,” or, “May I never see the comfort of Israel if… ” The Rabbis laid it down that to use any form of oath in a simple statement like: “That is an olive tree,” was sinful and wrong. “The yes of the righteous is yes,” they said, “and their no is no.”
Far too often people use the most sacred language in the most meaningless way. They take the sacred names upon their lips in the most thoughtless and irreverent way. The sacred names should be kept for sacred things.
The second Jewish custom was in some ways even worse than that; it might be called evasive swearing. The Jews divided oaths into two classes, those which were absolutely binding and those which were not. Any oath which contained the name of God was absolutely binding; any oath which succeeded in evading the name of God was held not to be binding. The result was that if a man swore by the name of God in any form, he would rigidly keep that oath; but if he swore by heaven, or by earth, or by Jerusalem, or by his head, he felt quite free to break that oath. The result was that evasion had been brought to a fine art.
The idea behind this was that, if God’s name was used, God became a partner in the transaction; whereas if God’s name was not used, God had nothing to do with the transaction. The principle which Jesus lays down is quite clear. In effect Jesus is saying that, so far from having to make God a partner in any transaction, no man can keep God out of any transaction. God is already there. The heaven is the throne of God; the earth is the footstool of God; Jerusalem is the city of God; a man’s head does not belong to him; he cannot even make a hair white or black; his life is God’s; there is nothing in the world which does not belong to God; and, therefore, whether God is actually named in so many words or not, does not matter. God is there already.