By Ronny E. Hinds
Having and knowing the truth on any issue is not sufficient. We must speak the truth out of a disposition of love for the one being taught. Every elder, preacher, teacher and member must understand and be warned by this.
Why? Because the Scriptures teach it. Paul’s God-inspired statement to the Christians in Ephesus is, “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head – Christ” (4:15).
This text is interesting because it is found amid warnings of being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, in cunning craftiness” (4:14) and yet we are to speak the truth in love. It would be so easy under those circumstances to lash back, to use their corrupt, ungodly tactics. But that is the way children act and “we should no longer be children” (4:14).
Instead we are to grow up. We are to allow Christ to rule our lives as brethren. He is our head “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (4:16).
The Lord’s servant is instructed not to “quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Teaching the truth to people caught in sin is not easy. No one likes to be informed that the life he is living is wrong. Frequently anger is displayed toward the one doing the teaching. Often his friends and weak Christians do not understand why you are saying those things. They get angry at you. Once, Jesus’ disciples reported to him that his words had offended people. Jesus answered, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. 15:12-14).
As long as we are teaching the truth and manifesting a disposition of love and care for the one lost in sin, then we are doing what we are supposed to do. If others detract then, “let them alone,” that is, “let it go, pay no attention to their detractions, ignore them.” For the Lord’s servant is not looking for a quarrel, but with patience and humility is seeking to bring about correction in the life of the one who is sinning. The Lord’s servant is not to become involved in a war of words, a battle over who is right, but is always to be seeking lost souls. Vindication of self or “our side” is not the issue – saving of souls is! We must carefully and honestly search our hearts to make sure our motives are right and pure. Without this, we condemn ourselves no matter how right we are.
The essence of this biblical teaching is well expressed in the saying, “truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” Truth and love go together. One without the other is a perversion of God’s will. Yet we are often guilty of such. We often cloth our failure to speak the truth to those who need it by saying we love them, we don’t want to hurt them. Such is hypocrisy. It is not real love. If we loved them, truly loved them, we would lovingly speak the truth that would correct the sin in their lives. No, it is not easy. Yes, they and others may misunderstand, accuse us of meddling, being self-righteous, and all the other things people often say. But the Lord knows our heart and his advice would be “let them alone.”
Long ago the wise man Solomon made this inspired observation. “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:5-6). Think about those words. Pray about them. Pray for wisdom that you can make them a part of your life. Let us encourage one another to be the friends we ought to be and not be deceitful!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 9, pp. 257, 279
May 3, 1990