Was the first thing you thought of when you read today’s title the movie, “A Few Good Men?” Jack Nicholson, when told by Tom Cruise that he only wants the truth, delivers the now-iconic line, “You can’t handle the truth!”, which meant Cruise’s character wasn’t able to properly understand or appreciate the truth.
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I want to look at this statement from an entirely different viewpoint, i.e. not that someone cannot handle hearing the truth, but can we who know the truth handle it? And what I mean is, can we handle it correctly?
Often we know someone who states a biblical “truth” that we know, absolutely, is wrong. Now, of course, we can never ignore the option that we are wrong, but when we know in our spirit, and when we can confirm it objectively (that is an important part of being “right”) from what is said in the Bible (and not just once in one sentence, but hermeneutically throughout the Bible), and also when it is confirmed to be truthful by others who we know are spiritually mature and biblically knowledgeable (wow, what a long sentence!), THEN we can be absolutely certain of what we believe.
Where was I? Oh, yeah- so, when we know someone says something that is wrong, do we handle the truth by stating it in a way that it can be handled by the one hearing it?
Do you see what I mean? Handling the truth is a two-way street: the one hearing it must hear the truth in a way that makes it possible for him or her to understand and accept it, and that will depend almost exclusively on how well the one with the truth presents it.
I was a salesman for many years, and I sold high-priced items on a one-call close basis. I was very successful because I did not tell the customer what they should do but instead, I presented my product in a way that allowed them to decide it was the best thing for them. The way I did that, which is how we must teach others, is to start with finding out what they think about something, then make them doubt their position by asking leading questions. The questions must be delivered in such a way that the only answer they can give is one that shows they aren’t certain about why they think something is true.
Here is what I have learned to be the best way to teach someone: don’t start by telling them what you know, start by asking them what they know, and then ask them why they believe it to be true? Only after you know what they think they know can you begin to show them that what they know is, as the song says, ain’t necessarily so.
You cannot get anyone to believe what you say until you get them to doubt what they say.
Once they realize that they might not be correct, THEN you have an opening to slowly, compassionately and respectfully tell them what you believe and immediately follow it up with why. Hopefully, the proof of your belief will convict them and then, and only then, it is possible they will realize they were wrong. That is if they’re willing to do so because, after all the work you have done, if they really don’t want to know anything other than what they believe you will not be able to change their mind.
And when they can’t handle the truth, do not try to force it upon them. Many people, if not most, will not want to hear the truth because they don’t want to move out of their comfort zone. They will refuse to relearn what they already think they know because they do not want to know anything different; they do not want to stop doing what they have always done, and they most certainly do not want to chance losing friends and family by separating themselves from their current environment.
And, as we all know, being holy means to be separated from the common.
The truth is something that will set us free; what is a hard truth to handle is that most people do not want to be free. They want to remain slaves to sin because it is a lot easier (and in many ways more fun) than being a slave to God. Besides, most people don’t even realize they are slaves, and that truth is the hardest thing to initially overcome when we minister to the unsaved.
You may disagree with what I am saying, but I know from experience and from confirmation (having been a top salesperson) that your truth cannot be accepted until after their truth is proven to be wrong.
So, nu? …now that you know the truth about handling the truth, can you handle the truth?
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!