What follows is part two of the Ninth Commandment from Chapter 10 of Ten Essential Words. The Ninth Commandment reads, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
We began discussing this Ninth Commandment with the modest example of ordering a cup of coffee. It may have seemed insignificant at the time, but it is in these little daily interactions that our name and our reputation can either gain or lose credibility. We may have lost some sense of the value of a good name – if it is not in a written contract, it usually is not worth anything today. But there are still places where our name has a certain value.
The online garage sale eBay still relies on the value of a name. Each time a seller or buyer engages in a transaction, the other party has an opportunity to rate them. If the person was positive to work with, paid their money on time, or shipped the item in a timely manner, a point is added to that person’s name. A neutral experience nets zero points. A bad experience, such as a delay in shipment or failing to pay results in a point taken away from the person’s name. Each transaction, whether selling a comic book or purchasing a plasma-screen TV, counts the same when it comes to assessing the value of a name. In general, the larger the number, the more trustworthy the person will be. Here is a hint: avoid negative people – literally!
What if we stepped out of the world of eBay and literally had a hologram number hovering above our head in real life? Every conversation and transaction either bumped that number up or pulled it down. Would it change the way you conducted your daily routine? Would it change the content of your conversations? To be people who embrace truth would mean that we would have no fear of that number hovering above our head. It would be visible for the entire world to see that we place a high value on honesty and speaking the truth in love. Truth is, that number is probably more visible to people than we realize.
Consider the ways in which you can fully embrace truth.
The eighth piece of fruit in the series on the Fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of Gentleness. For an overview see, By Their Fruit You Will Recognize Them.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
In its original language, gentleness often stood in contrast to harshness. It is closely related to the Scriptural idea of meekness or humility. Followers of Jesus were often implored not to be overbearing and harsh with their words and their beliefs. Thus gentleness was to characterize their disposition when interacting with others. At the same time, truth was never to be compromised.
We have already covered the first fruit of love and we also examined the role of truth with the fruit of peace. Gentleness then could be described as – to use the language of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – “speaking the truth in love.” Truth is not being set aside, but neither is it being used as a harsh weapon that serves to turn people off from the message of grace, because it is wielded with a gentle stroke.
Speaking the truth in love is more of an art form than a science – a delicate balance that, as followers of Jesus, we must strive for in our words. Words that contain both truth and love provide valuable nourishment for others and ourselves. Yet it is rather easy to leave one of these two ingredients out of our words. Some people speak the truth quite freely. They have absolutely no problem pointing out faults and offering criticisms to those around them, even reminding others that the truth sometimes hurts (a sure sign that it was probably not spoken in love). What they say can even be rather accurate; there is truth in their words. But love is absent. Their words are not delivered with gentleness.
Other people extend love quite easily to those around them. They are often encouraging and make others feel good about themselves with their words. But when the truth does need to be spoken, they shy away from it, often settling for the approval of those around them. Truth is skirted if there is a possibility that it may bring disagreement or rejection.
The truth is that on the truth-love continuum, most of us lean more toward one than the other. Some of us are truth-tellers, while others of us are grace-givers. One comes easily for us while the other is a bit more difficult to muster up. But finding that balance is part of expressing the fruit of gentleness.
If gentleness is the art of speaking the truth in love, how would you characterize the fruit of gentleness being evident in your conversations?
- Am I speaking the truth with love and humility?
- Do you tend to be more of a truth-teller or a grace-giver?
- Have you interacted with a person who exuded gentleness with their words? How did you respond to their words? How was truth about yourself presented to you?