We are all familiar with the saying: "You have the right to your own opinion, and I have mine. We are all entitled to our individual points of view." My question is: "How Christian is that?" Should Christians accept such practices wholeheartedly and see it as a 'way of life?' In a marketplace of ideas and pluralistic thoughts, all kinds of opinions are justified under the umbrella of free-speech, and the sacred right to self-expression. Touch this freedom of speech and one will be roasted alive. Freedom to speak is important, but truthful speaking is even more important. Extreme freedom-of-speech fighters puts rights before responsibilities. They are vocal. They are assertive, and sometimes they can justify the sanctity of such rights through aggressive demonstrations. Such freedom-of-speech is largely one to two dimensional. The first dimension is the concern for self-speech. The second dimension is that of speaking out on behalf of others fearing otherwise, their first dimensional self-right will be threatened.
Truth-speaking on the other hand goes beyond the first two dimensions to incorporate speaking the truth at the right time, to the right person, at the right moment, at the right circumstances, with a right attitude, a right motive of the heart and the right manner of speaking it in love. That's a tall order indeed. Practically impossible, some may say. That is why those who can practice truth-speaking cannot boast that it is due to their own personal efforts. The Spirit of God has to guide them toward truth speaking.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking him about his 'opinion' about paying taxes to Caesar, or not. (Matthew 22:17) Jesus knew that any answer of yes or no automatically traps him. If Jesus said 'yes' to Caesar, the religious Jews will be offended. If Jesus said 'no,' the political Romans will be furious. Either way, Jesus is presented with a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't scenario. It is a no-win situation. Yet Jesus gave one of the most classic answers which teaches us the beauty of speaking the truth in love.
Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?Jesus contemplates this one-dimensional opinion test, and produces a multi-dimensional answer which had all cylinders firing at the same time. His answer respects Roman law, yet does not contradict Jewish acceptable conduct at that time. Yet it honours God. The choice as to what is the best opinion becomes re-aligned with where the individual persons are coming from. This is one of the most brilliant answers I learn from Jesus.
Mt 22:19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius,
Mt 22:20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away
There is another aspect about opinions that I am concerned about. While it is good to gather a variety of different points of view, when it comes to deciding which is best, how to we choose? Do we choose on the basis of who speaks louder? Or on the basic of rational judgment? Or do we choose on the basis of what makes most sense at that time? Without an adequate guide of what truth is, every individual's opinion gets measured according to self-truth. That is a problem. How then do we decide which opinion is best?
An Anecdote from Marva
Opinions and the ideas of opinions have taken a life of its own, and the right to one's opinions is increasingly becoming enshrined in the altars of individual hearts. People walk off arguments with a blanket declaration: "Well that's only your opinion." Hey. Opinions should not be left to their own devices. Like fire, uncontrolled views burn and destroy weak hearts and minds. It has to be reined in under the straps of truth in love. That is how opinions can be sifted to separate the wheats of truth from the weeds of falsehood. Marva Dawn shares her response to a young lady at a youth convention. Responding to the young lass's statement of, "Well, I just wanted to know your opinion," Dawn shocked her with this curt remark.
That wasn't my opinion. If I had given you my opinion, it would have been the opposite because I really would like to escape these biblical truths and say what pleases everybody. I tried to tell you as faithfully as I could what all my studies have discerned God is saying. That's much more sound, more reliable, more eternally true than my measly opinion.[Marva Dawn, Talking The Walk, Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005, 83]Wow. If I was that young lady, I too will be blown away by the sharpness of Marva's conviction. Let this example not misrepresent Dr Marva Dawn in anyway. She may speak with conviction, but she does so with a compassionate heart for truth and love for people.
Truth in Thought, In Word and in Deed
A couple of weeks ago, I was the host for Marva Dawn at the Regent-College Pastor's Conference. She was one of the keynote speakers. My responsibilities is to help her get to the conference on time, and to help her get back to her hotel to rest. Though she walks slowly with a walking aid, I am impressed how alert her mind is, despite her external frail movements. People at the conference flocked to her in droves and I saw firsthand how compassionate she is with people around. It is not uncommon to see teary-eyed people during the conference, breaking down in her arms. Despite her weaknesses, her life is a sparkle of hope, a glimmers of strength that no other healthier and brawny adult can match. I said to myself, "Marva is indeed scholarly in thought but pastoral at heart." That is what I felt called to emulate. That is what I know I am called to be. To teach truthfully, to study the Scriptures diligently, to serve faithfully, and to love people compassionately. Thanks Marva for the rich lessons.
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32)