Speaking the Truth in Love

Who among us has never had a situation where you confronted a person about sin, and did so in a firm but caring way, only to have the individual accuse you of being harsh and uncaring? Certainly there will be times when dealing with sin in a biblical manner will set us up for an accusation of being cruel. Although such a charge will sting, we are to be committed to ministry with the mind and manner of Christ.

As fundamentalists we seek to have ministries that speak “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” We remain vigilant against all “deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14) that prey on undiscerning believers. But not only are we to teach and preach the truth, we are to do so “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).

The two words “in love” are to be a discipline which impacts all ministry. I say discipline because it is one of those “simple but not easy” matters in Christian work. Truth is to be presented in a manner marked by Christ’s love and compassion. Anything less is disobedience.

The truth often gets watered down by new evangelicals and charismatics who emphasize love. Fundamentalists sometimes are thought to be heavy on truth but light on love. We have a responsibility to present the gospel and train up believers with truth and love. “In love” is not an option; it is clearly a command. All our communication should be stamped by Christ-like compassion.

The fact that Jesus was a gentle Shepherd should not be misconstrued to mean He was soft on sin. Christ spoke some very stern words and yet everything He taught was in keeping with His character. Elders, never be “domineering over those in your charge” (1 Pet 5:3), but be known for your gentle manner (1 Tim 3:3). Love is not canceled out by truth. Truth is to be declared in perfect conformity with true love. Christ’s love is to be the standard for even the strongest message you preach against sin or compromise.

Preachers need to examine themselves daily in this regard. None of us has license to say what we want in any way we want. Apologetics or preaching done in unloving manner are a detriment. Even when it is necessary to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), we are duty bound to correct in a manner that testifies to the love of Christ. With truth we at times have to correct, but in love we do so in a way that is not censorious.

Biblical separatists are known for their vigilance, ready to defend God’s Word. May we also be known for our tenderheartedness (Eph 4:32), willing to show God’s love. This is one of the best ways to show that we are under control—the Spirit’s control. Acting in the love of Christ is the best way to show loyalty to Christ.

October/November 2009

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