“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” – Matthew 5:11.
Perception is not reality – truth is. And when you speak the truth, you will be perceived poorly by some people because of the insults and false accusations that will come your way. That’s just the environment in which we live. But remember, perception is not reality – truth is.
If we as Christians focus more on pleasant perception than timeless truths, we’ll operate primarily in the strategic and not in the Spirit. Strategy is good, but it must follow the Spirit. Therefore, we cannot focus on how others perceive us, but we must concern ourselves with the truth.
During an election season, values voters are good examples of this in regard to life, marriage and religious liberty. As a result of these convictions, they’re often perceived as anti-women, anti-gay and discriminatory. Thankfully, there is a growing number of values voters this year who don’t concern themselves with perception, but rather truth. And, of course, speaking the truth in love as Scripture commands is key.
In today’s cultural context, it’s vital to remain steadfast in the truth, regardless of the perception that will come as the insults and false accusations begin to fly.
Bishop Harry Jackson, an African-American pastor, provided an excellent picture of this for us last week in Charlotte as we stood together against the transgender “Bathroom Bill,” which passed, unfortunately, by a 7-4 vote. Before the meeting, he stood outside the chamber and declared:
“During the 1950s and ’60s, blacks fought for their constitutional rights in five major areas:
1. The Right to Equal Employment
2. The Right to Equal Education
3. The Right to Vote
4. The Right for Equal Justice & Due Process
5. The Right to Equal Housing
“The LGBT community has all of these rights already. The transgender bathroom ordinance that is being voted on today is not giving denied rights to an oppressed group. It is rather an attempt to give ‘special rights’ to a community that does not need them.”
Bishop Jackson nailed it on these points. But as to being insulted and falsely accused for simply speaking the truth and debunking the comparison between LGBT rights and black rights, he’s been called an anti-gay leader in the “contemporary Confederate army.” He’s accused of being no different than those who wanted a “civil war to maintain slavery.”
Based on the narrative that’s been created against the bishop as a result of his stand for truth, should he then throw his convictions in neutral for fear of being perceived as racist or bigoted? If your focus is on perception, then the answer would be yes.
But Bishop Jackson isn’t operating strategically, trying to create an attractive perception about himself. He’s functioning spiritually, seeking to proclaim the truth of God regardless of cost or consequence.
We can all learn from Bishop Jackson and the countless others who are stepping up to speak the truth in love in a culture that demands silence. Now is the time to throw perception to the air and focus on truth. Because the truth is the only thing that will set people free.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Let’s not forget that perception is not reality – truth is.
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