The shrill ring of the phone startled my husband Richard and me from a sound sleep. It was a business acquaintance of his, asking if it were true that Richard was stranded in Spain after his credit cards, cash and passport were stolen. How much money did he need to borrow, and how could she wire it to him?
Emerging from our dazed confusion, we finally pieced together that Richard’s email account had been hacked, and that the hacker had sent an individual email to each of my husband’s contacts, explaining the above made-up scenario and requesting a loan. Unlike most junk email and phishing scams, this one appeared to come from my husband’s correct email address and contained his name, increasing the chances that a good-hearted recipient would think it was a legitimate call for help rather than a blatant lie.
Earlier that night I had awakened from sleep with two Bible verses going through my head: “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33) and “let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay” (Matthew 5:37). I hadn’t even made the connection until I mentioned this to my husband later in the day, and he said, “Sounds like that email hoax to me.”
It made me think about how important it is for us to avoid “corrupt communication” (Ephesians 4:29). Our family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who know we claim His name regard us, at least to some extent, as His representative (2 Corinthians 5:20). What we say therefore reflects on Him, whether rightly or wrongly. Those in positions of leadership must be especially careful not only that their speech honors Him, but also that it is doctrinally sound and pure.
We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), not being hurtful or judgmental, or causing offense that would be a stumbling block to another’s faith (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:9; 1 Peter 2:8; 1 John 2:10). Yet in our eagerness to be kind, accepted or politically correct, we must not gloss over truths that may be painful to hear. Saying “He’s in a better place,” about a lost person who died may make his family feel better, but it is directly opposed to Biblical truth and may remove the urgency the family members might otherwise feel about getting right with God.
It is true that only God knows the heart(Psalm 44:21; Luke 16:15; Acts 15:8; 1 John 3:20) and that deathbed conversions may occur, so we can’t know for sure what any person’s eternal destiny may be. In the above situation, it may be best to focus on that, and to thank God for offering eternal life in heaven to “whosoever” believes in His Son’s death, burial and resurrection to pay for our sins (John 3:16).
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul explains the Gospel of grace – that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again, that all who have faith in Him will have eternal life. He warns against “evil communications” (v. 33) with those who would dilute or even deny this truth, which is the only means to salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We must not allow false teachers to compromise our knowledge of this truth (2 Peter 2:1) and our urgency to share it with others, as Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
Our own testimony and witness to others must not in any way corrupt the Gospel. Instead, it must build up and instruct the hearer regarding God’s grace and salvation through His Son (Ephesians 4:29). Similarly, Jesus warns us to speak the truth plainly – yes meaning yes, and no meaning no (Matthew 5:37). If we muddle these together, we distort what is right and wrong, black and white, into shades of gray.
Recently there has been a controversial trend, known as the "King's Way," for some in positions of Christian leadership to attempt to reach out in friendship to Muslims by saying that we all worship the same God. Evangelical Christian groups are invited to participate in this partnership with mosques, but they are prohibited from sharing the Gospel.
However, our God is clearly different from how the Koran portrays Allah. Christians recognize a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all equally God, whereas Muslims do not recognize Jesus as God, but only as a prophet superceded by Mohammed. Our God is love (1 John 4:8), and He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; 1 Corinthians 1:9), unchanging (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17), and true (Romans 3:4; Titus 1:2), promising eternal life to all who have a personal relationship with His Son (John 14:6-7). This promise is based only on His grace, and not on any works we could do to try to earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). When God chastises His children, He does it as a loving Father, for our ultimate good (Hebrews 12:5).
But Allah is viewed by some as punitive and one to be feared, and salvation demands works such as pilgrimages to Mecca and repetitive daily prayers. Even so, Muslims can never be sure they have done enough to merit entrance into Paradise.
The truths of Christianity may be viewed by some as exclusive and even as intolerant and offensive. This is hardly surprising, because Christ and His Word say that His truths cause division among family members (Matthew 10:21; 34-35); that He is the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12); that our hearts are wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); and that we have all broken God’s laws in thought if not always in deed (Matthew 5:28). The doctrine emphasized by Paul is indeed offensive -- that we are all sinners; that no one is righteous; and that we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10, 23).
Yet to “reach out” to nonbelievers or to strike up “friendships” with them by denying these Biblical truths may gain a “friend” during this lifetime, yet lose a soul to hell for all eternity. What kind of “friend” keeps silent about the words of eternal life? (John 6:68) Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), but doesn’t true love demand that we speak the truth? We have the Good News that keeps people from hell, so why would we not share it?
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a former Muslim who has been preaching the Gospel since he was born again, is awaiting execution in Iran rather than renouncing the truth. He is a true friend to his flock, one who lays down his life for his friends (John 15:13), willing to die for telling the truth so that others may live.
May our prayers be with him and others who face persecution and death rather than speaking corrupt communication. His captors have offered to spare his life if only he would renounce Jesus, but Pastor Yousef says:
"I am resolute in my faith and Christianity and have no wish to recant.”