Speaking the truth in love
Many years ago I visited my dying friend Ken Wright in
hospital in Palmerston North. Ken was an internationally respected Bible
teacher. He had cancer. I asked him for any advice he would like to pass on. He
said, "Yes, I have seen that people who try to defend God often do a lot more
harm than good. God is big enough to defend Himself and He fights for His own
Sometimes those who cause division and confusion in the
Church actually intended to do good. Jesus warned His disciples that some of the
people, who would persecute them, would do it thinking they were doing God a
In Ephesians 4:15 we read "But speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects into Him Who is the head even Christ." I have
known or heard, over the years, folk speaking out about what they suppose to be
"error" in the Church, or "deceivers" in our midst, or even calling each
other "false teachers." Sometimes the man or woman uses derogatory remarks
and there is a definite bitterness in the attack on the individuals character.
This is not Gods way, and not like Paul who said " I tell you weeping (not
gleefully) that some are the enemies of the cross of Christ." It is true that
Jesus called Herod "That old fox", and that the apostle Paul spoke boldly
about Hymenaeus and Alexander and Philetus (1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 2:16-18)
but his standard of kindness as he did it was clear. (2 Timothy 2:24-26) "And
the Lords bondservant, must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to
teach, patient when wronged. With gentleness correcting those who are in
opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of
the truth, and they may come to their senses And escape from the snare of the
devil having been held captive by him to do his will."
In Ephesians 4, the Chapter where he speaks about speaking
the truth in love so that we can grow up. He also reminds us to be kind to one
another, tender hearted and forgiving to each other, just as God in Christ
forgave you (verse 32), Jesus taught us not to damage the true wheat in our
efforts to pull out the tares. A lot of harm has been done by persons lacking
grace, wisdom and consideration, trying to sort out the Church or weed out
people with wrong doctrine. It can end as an unprofitable witch-hunt, and it can
alienate people who would have listened to correction and changed if they had
been approached more kindly.
The Bible warns us not to go around provoking each other.
When a man lacks true authority and anointing, he sometimes runs on the shock
value of controversy and theatrical outrage at the deceivers.
I have watched many of them come and go leaving wounded
people in their wake and also I have seen their own ministries come to a crash
and burn. The warning signs were already there in their own graceless, un-loving
utterances. The book of Proverbs says "The lips of the wise make knowledge
acceptable", that doesn't mean that we water down the message to make it
more palatable for the receiver. It means we speak in a friendly manner rather
than using incendiary and attacking language that leaves our targets feeling
damaged and hated. Harsh language is the overflow of a harsh heart, and it is in
there that the love grace and mercy must dwell. (Matthew 12:35).
People are more likely to listen in a friendly and loving
manner as it is written in the book of Proverbs 16:21 "Sweetness of speech
increaseth learning." Another translation says, " increases persuasion".
But those who wish to make a name for themselves as effective prophets
denouncing others will not want to be persuaded until they are willing to take
Gods advice and become gentle and meek like the Master Himself. He was Strong
and Powerful, but he did not speak destructively and with slanderous speech in
order to set people straight. The advice of the Book is plain and simple, be
kind, still speak the truth, but do it in love. In fact it says, "Let all that
you do be done in love"(1 Corinthians 16:14).