I struggle with telling the truth all the time; do you? Oh, now, let me assure you that I am not a "liar" in the common sense of the word, but my dilemma is found in sharing all that I know to be true from Scriptures with those who are immersed in sin and in compromise.
We live in a Christian culture that has convinced the church that it is more important to be kind than it is to tell the truth. I do believe with my whole heart that kindness is a priority in every relationship in life—but so is telling the truth, simply because eternity is at stake. I know that I should love everybody all the time, but I also must not ignore the tough love that cares enough to confront sin rather than just cast a sidelong glance at it.
There are times when I long for the days when a pastor or a teacher wasn't afraid to preach a sermon that confronted sin deliberately. I remember as a young girl reading an excerpt from the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathan Edwards and I can honestly say that it scared me!
Now, I don't believe that God is angry, but I do believe that as in the days of Noah, He is "grieved in His heart" at the actions of humanity (Gen. 6:6). The word that is used in the ancient Hebrew to express "grieved" is the word atsab and it means "to be hurt, to be in pain, to be vexed or tortured." I can't help but wonder if the sins that we are accommodating in the 21st century are torturing the heart of our good, good Father.
It is a spiritual conundrum, though, isn't it? If I ignore someone's sin or refuse to confront it, I am making light of the death of Christ on the cross for sin. If I don't tell the whole truth that is found in Scripture, I am minimizing the holiness of the God whom I willingly and joyfully serve.
However, if I decide to take a stand for righteousness and against the popular sins of the day, I might be accused of being judgmental, intolerant or even unloving.
The answer to my theological and relational puzzlement can be found in the wisdom of Scriptures.
"Do you despise the riches of His goodness, tolerance, and patience, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4).
"But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, Christ Himself" (Eph. 4:15).
I will remind myself daily to be kind to people with whom I disagree and to those who are caught in the trap of sin. And, when I do feel the unction to speak the truth to lost and hurting souls, I will only speak truth when it is framed by love. I must not shy back from the truth. However, the truth that I speak must be birthed in a heart of compassion and must be uttered with deep kindness and with vast mercy.
When Jesus had a conversation with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, His words were simple, straightforward and laced with love: "Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more'" (John 8:11).
Jesus knew that a life of sin was not the abundant life that this woman had been born to live. He focused not on the sin of her past, but on the incredible future that she was created to enjoy. Jesus acknowledged her sin but invited her out of the bondage and pain of compromised living.
The words of Jesus give me a dynamic strategy even as my heart breaks for the sin of the culture in which I live. It is up to me to invite people to live the life of hope and peace for which they were created.
I must speak the truth in love and confidently summon my generation to the joy that righteous living offers. I must tell the truth with kindness and with hope. I simply must.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, Defiant Joy! and Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.
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