“I get so frustrated by your culture! Please don’t tell me ‘Let’s get together sometime,’ if you aren’t going to follow up on it! Just keep your word – act like a Christian!”
This opening to my Intercultural Communication class in college was unanticipated and uncomfortable, at the least. While my Korean professor didn’t direct her morning diatribe toward me or anyone else in the class, I will never forget it. Her swift motions as she prepared her desk for teaching class that day conveyed the sense that a recent conversation, in addition to an accumulated mountain of similar irritations, served as the catalyst for her eruption. Were her feelings unfounded? Maybe not. Our society has gotten into the habit of saying we’ll do things without any real intention of following through. If it happens, great! If not, no sweat.
Just because something is culturally acceptable doesn’t mean that it’s biblical. It’s our responsibility to test and discern what glorifies God best through reading His Word – the lens of absolute truth through which we view and interpret the goings-on in the world. So, then, what does the Bible say about keeping our word?
• “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” James 5:12
• “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are His delight.” Proverbs 12:22
• “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” Proverbs 11:3
The Bible uses some pretty strong language to emphasize the importance of keeping our commitments. It also doesn’t mention keeping our word only when it’s convenient or when we feel like it. But it does promise blessing to those who choose integrity.
LET’S BE HONEST
When we say we’re going to do something, we are giving our word. The words “I promise” or “I swear” shouldn’t have to be present for a statement to mean anything of significance. In fact, the Bible even encourages us not to use such vernacular (Matthew 5:33-37).
God doesn’t call us to meet the status quo. We are called to stand out, to be in the world but not of it. Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” If we live like the world does, we are unrecognizable as followers of Christ.
Not only that, but the world is watching us to see if we live according to the standard we claim. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” OUCH! The world can see when we are hypocritical and judges us for it. Instead, God desires our conversations to be “…honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).
LIVING IT OUT
I find that we are tempted to break commitments if a better or more convenient opportunity comes along. I Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Edification is all about setting ourselves – our needs and desires – aside for the purpose of building up others.
My Intercultural Communication professor saw a direct link between following through on our words and acting like a Christian. Let’s test our actions to see if they represent Christ well to the glory of God, and make changes if necessary. Our God is full of mercy and grace!
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” I Peter 3:15-16
Family Radio Staff