A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. (Proverbs 25:11-12, ESV)
I’m re-reading one of my favorite books, Anne of Avonlea. It’s such a sweet story. I’ve always believed that the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, had great insight into people and human nature. It’s more apparent to me now reading it as an adult.
One passage I read stood out to me this week. Anne is talking with Mr. Harrison, a grumpy, cranky sort of man. The kind of man who offends others and doesn’t care. Here he makes excuses for his behavior:
“It was the truth and I believe in telling the truth to everybody.”
“But you don’t tell the whole truth,” objected Anne. “You only tell the disagreeable part of the truth.” …
“You must excuse me, Anne. I’ve got a habit of being outspoken and folks mustn’t mind it.”
“But they can’t help minding it. And I don’t think it’s any help that it’s your habit. What would you think of a person who went about sticking pins and needles into people and saying, ‘Excuse me, you mustn’t mind it . . . it’s just a habit I’ve got.’ You’d think he was crazy, wouldn’t you?” (Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea, pg. 63)
How many times recently have we heard certain pastors or politicians praised for their “honesty.” There seems to be a lot of praise for offensive “honesty” lately. But being offensive is not a virtue.
As believers, there will be times that we have to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and it may very well offend. When we confront others for their sin, we can do it gently and lovingly and with kindness towards them. They may be offended by what we say, but let it be the message that offends, not the method.
Let’s put off seeking to offend and rejoicing in offending others. It doesn’t speak well of us or commend us or our message of grace and forgiveness. Let’s put aside the world’s ways of communicating with others and build each other up out of love for each other. And let’s stop promoting public figures who enjoy being offensive. As Anne says, they’re like crazy folk going around “sticking pins and needles into people.” We wouldn’t stand for that, why should we promote, support, or excuse offensive behavior in others, especially those in authority.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. … be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:4, 18b-21, ESV)