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Telling the truth – and the great Aussie Census stuff-up!

Telling the truth can be tricky with a crashed Census website…

It is unlikely that Australia’s top statistician Mr David Kalisch will ever forget 9 August 2016. That’s the day the new online Census system crashed.  And he wondered how he’d go about telling the truth.

The event was so huge that the hashtag #CensusFail became the biggest trending topic worldwide on Twitter.   Worldwide!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics talked about a series of ‘denial of service’ attacks being responsible for closing down the site. But the Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said: “This was not an attack, nor was it a hack.”  So, to what extent it was a hack, an attack or simply a system overload will probably never be known, especially with different people giving different public accounts of the same events.

Life lessons with telling the truth

So what are the lessons about truth for us in all of this?

The plan was good – to make it easier and more efficient to collect important data from every one of the 24 million Australians. A regular accurate ‘snapshot’ of Australia is considered critical for planning and policy making. Unfortunately, the process failed so badly that the data collection – which will now occur over many many weeks – may be flawed and incomplete.

Without a true and complete ‘picture’, national needs may be misunderstood and responses misdirected.  And of course no-one seems willing to give an open and true account of what really happened and why.

The same is true with our personal communications. Truth matters. Are we always completely truthful when we speak to members of our families, our work colleagues or our friends? What about what we say and how we speak when we have been hurt? And when we have to speak difficult truths to others, are we careful to do it with love?

When we find ourselves in a conflict with someone, it’s more than likely each of us have contributed in some way to the breakdown of the relationship. If we’re serious about wanting to glorify God in our lives, conflict presents the perfect opportunity!

First we need to prayerfully consider what we have done to contribute to the conflict, confess this to the other person, and repent and seek forgiveness from God and them.

Only then, if we believe that the other person has also contributed to the damaged relationship and that it would be most loving that they know this, should we consider doing this.

But how do we approach this difficult task of speaking truth into their lives?

With grace.

With love.

With humility.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18)

We demonstrate our care by planning our words carefully, choosing the timing and venue of our conversation to best suit them, listening actively and attentively, and speaking words winsomely and clearly.

We show them love by intentionally holding out the hope and forgiveness of the gospel even while we are speaking to them of their contribution to the conflict.

As followers of Jesus, we can and should ask God for grace, love and humility as we speak. As broken and hurt sinners ourselves, we will be tempted to use our words to condemn and force contrition and confession. We should instead ask God to help us to draw attention through our words to the wonderful good news that God has forgiven both our and their sins through Jesus Christ.  And that he is eager and able to help us change our ways.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

We will only be able to glorify God in these difficult conversations as the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is itself woven deeply into our own hearts and lives. Through this we serve them well and ourselves grow to reflect more of Christ.

So let’s saturate our hearts and minds with the gospel of peace.   So that when we have the opportunity to ‘speak the truth in love’, we can bring with those words, hope in Jesus Christ and encouragement for a more sanctified life.

It’s worth thinking about.



To find out more about what the Bible has to say about speaking the truth in love, read Chapter 8 of The Peacemaker (Ken Sande).

(Over this year, through each edition of Peace It Together, we will be sharing the basic peacemaking principles as covered in each chapter of the book, The Peacemaker (by Ken Sande).)