Part II in a series on speaking the truth in love
As noted last week, there are three primary purpose for speaking the truth in love: 1) To mature believers (Ephesians 4:15). When truth is spoken, two choices are available–to become bitter, or better; to mature, or to complain. 2) Freedom. Not only will we know the truth when we repent and belief on the only name that saves (Jesus), but we also experience freedom…freedom from condemnation, sin, guilt, and God’s Judgment. 3) To spark repentance. Galatians 6:1 adds, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness….”
With that said, consider these additional facts:
- Truth upsets. “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). There are times when we need to “rock the boat” and contend for truth with boldness. Regrettably, it’s not possible to be liked by everyone. When we speak the truth in love we will inevitably disengage and upset others. Jesus’ words, although seasoned with a tremendous amount of grace, offended people. He rebuked religious leaders, reprimanded entire cities, challenged the rich, and lectured His disciples when needed. After all, how can we “expose the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11) and expect not to offend?
- Truth is narrow. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There is no other way. This is why we can’t just all get along—ecumenical and inter-faith movements are not biblical. There are not “many” ways to God. The Bible and the beliefs of other religions cannot all be right. They can all be wrong, but they cannot all be right. Many reject the Bible as absolute truth because absolute truth, by definition, is exclusive. But they fail to realize that relativism is also exclusive—it excludes those who hold to absolutes. People will accept numerical truth such as two plus two equals four, but they don’t like “moral” truth. They want the freedom to do what they want, when they want, how they want, to whom they want, which, according to Scripture, is to our own destruction. This shouldn’t be discouraging, but very encouraging…God has provided the way. It’s our choice to accept, or reject it. This point remind us why experiences, feelings, and presumptions cannot replace the Scriptures. This is why absolute truth and biblical unity are critical. They keep us grounded.
- Truth restores. At other times, Jesus would build up rather than pull down. For example, the only command He gave the woman caught in the act of adultery was to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He didn’t condemn her, criticize her, or bring up the past; He gave her clear direction concerning what to do from that point forward. The truth restored her.
In closing, avoid being a “divisive” person who is proud, un-teachable, and eager to dispute. As we learn the Scriptures, we can become filled with pride and easily see the flaws in others—knowledge puffs up. Blinded by pride, and convinced that God has called you to critique others, you might think that you’re more knowledgeable, holy, and in tune with the Spirit, and that God has obviously given you the “gift” of criticism. When no such “gift” exists. Be careful here—it can be a critical attitude, not God, that is leading you.
Pastor John Piper offers a word of caution: “You can become so obsessed with doctrinal error that you lose the ability to rejoice in doctrinal truth.” In other words, seek to be united with the Spirit first and foremost; be a peacemaker but not a religious negotiator. We don’t negotiate truth; we proclaim it!