I was having a conversation the other day with a young woman who has a popular blog. Many young women are encouraged by her raw honesty, influenced in their thinking by her words.
As we spoke, she shared that people can be cruel online, that she had had people make harsh, unkind comments on her feed and in direct messages, calling her out and pushing back on some of her posts. She admitted that, while she understood what was being said and agreed that she needed to be clearer about certain aspects of her writings, the way it was presented to her was not perceived as being “in love” but rather quite caustic, so it was hard to receive.
For such a time as this, we must be willing to speak and hear truth and make sure others are as well, but we can do it in a way that the ones to whom we address will not be quick to disavow our comments because of the acidity of our presentation, the hammer with which we drive our words.
Sometimes we need to speak the truth to people; even the sincerest believer can word something in a way that comes across incorrectly, define something in a way that is contrary to God’s Word, or make a choice that needs a reset.
Of course, we must hold one another accountable; the Bible makes that clear. Of course, we must guard and protect the Truth of the Bible and the Gospel message. And we need to be direct, so that the importance of the point is not lost in the shuffle to “be nice.” But perhaps we can increasingly speak in a way that opens the avenues for dialog, training, mentoring, teaching, and leading back to the only source of Truth – the Word of God.
Might that not be what Paul meant when he said, “Speaking the truth in love,” then proceeded with the purpose of speaking that truth, “…(so that) we will grow up to become in every aspect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15) rather than remaining “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” or living “in the futility of their thinking…darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18)
We speak truth to one another, in a manner worthy of the Gospel, in love, for a God-centered purpose, to grow each other up in newness of life, to protect the Truth being presented in the marketplace of ideas and in relationships, to strengthen one another against the attempts of the enemy of our souls to make light of the fear of the Lord, His commands, and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Receiving truth, even spoken in love, is not always comfortable; in fact, it may feel harsh if it is pushing back on a “pillar” of our platform or a comfortable spot in our lives we don’t want to address and we may balk when it comes to us, but we must always ask the Lord, “What do you want me to hear from what is being said, is there truth in it, and how must I respond to be faithful to you?” Don’t effectively shut down other believers and/or the people in your life who know you and love you most if they are not always just your “hype person,” one who makes you feel great about yourself but sometimes at the expense of truth.
Speaking the truth in love, we must take care to do just that…speak it in love but always first bathed in prayer, taken to the throne of God, and asking the Holy Spirit to direct both our words and the heart of the one to whom we communicate.
Whether it be speaking to a fellow believer or to an unbeliever with whom we hope to share the good news, Peter reminds us to do so “with gentleness and respect.” (I Peter 3:15) We can and must be faithful and uncompromising yet bold and kind, making sure our words are grounded in the whole counsel of the Word of God and not just a cultural preference.
Our words must always point others back to HIS Word!
The unbeliever may not be moved, but they will remember the way in which we interacted with them and, prayerfully, the Lord will use that in their journey towards an understanding of the Gospel and a surrender of their lives by faith to God through Jesus Christ.
Even when we speak the truth in love to another believer, be it one we know or don’t know, it may not be received in the way we intended, with a heart willing to hear, receive, and consider the validity of the comments. Our motives may be misconstrued, and it may end poorly. In fact, the person may reject what is said completely. But our goal must always be obedient faithfulness to Christ, glory to God, and a desire for the good of the other person as well as any that will be affected by their words, as with a writer or speaker, or their actions and/or choices.
If the person is a true follower of Christ, even if their initial response is negative, they will heed the Holy Spirit’s prompting and either make a revision on their platform or reset their course so that God is glorified, and no one is hindered from coming to a true relationship with the Savior or injured in their walk with Christ. Or, if the conflict is between two believers, they can return and say, “Let’s readdress that rightly and without fear of rejection.” Both are attitudes bathed in the grace of God and desirous to be faithful to what is true.
As believers, we have a responsibility to follow Jesus, to live by God’s commands. Our words must be faithful and true as we follow Him who is Himself, Faithful and True. Our actions must reflect a life submitted to the Lordship of Christ, not continuing in self-gratification and self-love. But, at times, we will fail to speak and live rightly, and it is the one who loves deeply that will communicate with us for the end goal of glory to God and restoration to us.
Let us love well in words and actions and receive that bold love well so that we may be display the true Gospel to ourselves and to the watching world.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins…(do all) so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen!” (I Peter 4:8, 11)
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)