Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col 4:5-6, KJV). The Lord Jesus Christ was the only perfectly balanced person who ever lived. He was the true antitype of the meal offering, the fine flour with no unevenness in it. He had every desirable characteristic, including every characteristic of the divine love of 1 Corinthians 13 and every characteristic of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23; all were in perfect blend. Most saints would like to be more like Him. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, KJV).
We should all profit from our mistakes. When I worked at Fay, Spofford, and Thorndyke, it was understood that all the workers could have a little break from work. I worked at the drafting board closest to a room where Mrs. Cunningham and another woman worked. One afternoon while talking with them I gave my testimony, telling them how God saved me. When I finished, Mrs. Cunningham asked me if she was saved. I knew that she was a morally living woman, but I had no reason to think that she was saved, so I answered “No.” She was quite upset and said, “Just because I am not preaching to others?”
Afterwards I asked myself, “Could I have handled that better?” It would have been better if I had said something such as, “According to the Bible, every person on the way to heaven, has had a time in life when they realized that they were only a sinner unfit for heaven and personally trusted the Lord Jesus for salvation, realizing that He had died for their sins on the cross. You can decide for yourself whether you are saved.”
There are three passages in Proverbs about mercy and truth that help us in testimony. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (3:3-4, KJV). “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (16:6, KJV). “Mercy and truth preserve the king” (20:28, KJV). By application, the more the saints of any assembly can see that the overseers have a blend of mercy and truth, the more they carry the confidence of the saints.
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8, KJV). There could be some resentment when we behave differently from others. But their resentment will be greater if they detect pride with our being different. However, sometimes they may think they see pride when it is not actually there. I remember hearing the late Sydney Maxwell tell publicly about the assembly brethren at the aircraft factory where he worked. He thought they were the proudest young men he knew, because they had Scripture chapter and verse for what they believed and it was different from what Sydney believed, at that time. He said later he found out that he was the proud one!
The best illustration that I know of walking humbly with our God is the late James Stevenson, one of the seven overseers who signed my letter of commendation. During World War II provision was made for one to be conscientiously opposed to combatant service or to all forms of service. During World War I there was no such provision. James Stevenson felt that he could serve as a non-combatant. There were over 30 of them at the beginning, but the armed forces moved them from place to place without a uniform until most joined the regular combatants, feeling that the US Army had no place for them as non-combatants. There were only six men left when they were put through a much more severe trial.
They were taken to a parade field where a colonel marched a whole battalion in full dress uniform before them, stopping in front of the six remaining men. The colonel said, “These men are cowards; they have a big yellow stripe up their backs; they’re afraid to fight!” He intimated that they could prove that they weren’t cowards if they joined the ranks, and afterwards they would receive a uniform. As he spoke, he could see one after another joining the ranks. After about 20 minutes he said triumphantly, “And now, I don’t suppose there’s one of them left!”
He turned around and there was one left, James Stevenson, 19 years of age. The colonel said, “How come you’re still here?” James answered, “I would have been with you a long time ago except for the grace of God. I was a sinner on the way down to hell and God saved me by His grace. Since He has saved me, I don’t feel free to pull a trigger and send another man down to hell.” The colonel said, “All right, son. We’re opening up a medical dispensary and you can be in charge of that.”
I think that whatever view we may have of conscientious objection, every one of us can see that James Stevenson’s testimony had all the greater weight because he was walking humbly with his God. James attributed the difference between him and all the other men solely to the grace of God. We all need the grace of God to walk humbly with our God.