I’m not an expert when it comes to sharing God’s truth with people. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever actually done so, at least verbally. I hope that my life is a light to those around me, but it’s hard to consider yourself a “witness” based only on lifestyle alone. Sometimes you have to actually engage people in conversation, confront their misunderstandings and wrong ideas, and lead them to the truth. This is something I’ve never really done, and it’s really all because of a fear that I will be made to look wrong. For some odd reason, I don’t want to look wrong in front of people. It’s not that I am afraid they will prove me wrong. I have enough faith to believe that God’s truth is exactly that – truth – and that no one is ever going to prove it untrue. But I still fail to witness to people, out of the fear that I will turn them away and that I will not have the right words to say to show them the truth, and that I will end up looking wrong.
Today’s lesson from The Ever Loving Truth was actually over how God will raise allies from unexpected places, but it made a statement that I found quite profound, and I decided to dive deeper into that statement than into the actual focus of the lesson. The statement was this:
The truth makes sense to reasonable people.
I couldn’t get past this statement, and more importantly, I couldn’t get past its implications for me as a witness. If I am to be an effective witness to those around me, I must understand that some people will see the truth as reasonable and will at least listen to it as a reasonable option. And some people will reject it, regardless of how reasonable it is.
In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested for preaching and teaching the message of Jesus to the people. An angel released them from prison and told them to go back to the temple and continue preaching that message. The Sanhedrin (the Jewish leaders), after sending someone to see why these men weren’t in prison where they had been sent, had the apostles brought before them once again. They asked them once again why they were continuing to preach the message of Jesus after having been threatened, and they replied that they must obey God rather than men. This is where we pick up in today’s passage, Acts 5:33-19:
33When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
These words from Gamaliel are extremely wise, and show that he had reasoned out what was going on. Here are the main things I took from all this:
- Gamaliel looked at the truth and reasoned that the apostles activities could be from God. The truth was that the apostles had obviously performed miraculous signs and wonders, which could only come from God. They had gotten out of prison, apparently without even the guards noticing or the doors of the jail being unlocked, which was another miracle. Gamaliel wasn’t saying that he was a Christian all of a sudden – he was only saying that it was possible these men had the favor of God. If so, their message would stand the test of time. If not, it would fail just like every other “movement” like this had. Gamaliel took the calm, rational approach to the whole ordeal, while the rest of his peers were unreasonable and upset.
- Gamaliel looked at the whole ordeal from God’s perspective. From God’s perspective, all things have a purpose. Nothing is coincidence. This “uprising,” as the Jewish leaders may have seen it as, had as much purpose as any other event. If it was intended to be what the apostles said it was intended to be – the salvation of all of mankind through faith in Jesus, then the Jewish leaders would only be fighting against God if they tried to crush it. They would ultimately fail. If the apostles were wrong, nothing would come of it. God’s purpose always prevails.
- Reason allows you to look at truth objectively. Regardless of the miracles surrounding all the apostles did, regardless of their bold success in the face of threats and danger, and regardless of anything else that might have occurred, most of the Jewish leaders were never going to believe that the apostle’s message was from God. This is still the case today – some people will always reject the truth about Jesus regardless of the facts. But those who come at Jesus objectively, willing to reason out the evidence, will quickly find that His message is true, and that it’s necessary.
So to apply this to myself, I need to keep this in mind when I consider talking to others about Jesus. First off, I need to live in such a way that makes others interested in why I live this way. That will lead to questions. Then I need to answer those questions with the truth from God’s Word. I need to feel them out – are they asking out of sincerity, or are they asking in an attempt to stump me or prove me wrong. The first will listen and be reasonable, and will likely find the truth. The latter will probably reject the truth regardless. And in the end, I must remember that “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town” (Matthew 10:14, emphasis added). Because it’s not me they’re rejecting – it’s the truth. And rejecting the truth doesn’t make it any less true.