Earlier this week, when New York passed a law that, in my opinion, showed an utter disregard for the sacredness of human life, I made some public statements that some found offensive. Several called me out for a ‘lack of love.’ I took their rebukes seriously, for I am not above correction.
When is it appropriate to express convictions based on my understanding of the revealed will of God even those that make some people uncomfortable, angry, or feeling guilty? Or, should my goal be to ‘just love’ without judgment, realizing that life is complex, that choices are hard, and that people are different? The Scripture teaches me both to be a voice in the wilderness whose life and words call others to get right with God and to be a messenger of reconciliation that holds out the grace of God, which is immeasurable and free.
The balance between truth and love is a major concern for me in my Christian life. Have I found the perfect place at the fulcrum? No, certainly not.
Here is how I think about these things, the guidelines that I try to follow.
First of all, I know that my primary message is not morality, it is about Christ Jesus. There must always be the hope of redemption, the offer of restoration. The promise of John 3.16 where God is said to love the world must be prominent in my words. However, the Cross makes no sense if there is no offense. We are sinners, separated from our Father, in desperate need apart from the intervention of His grace. Is depravity a popular topic? Not at all, but it part of the truth.
Second, I must be authentic about my own process! Jesus reminds me to get the post out of my own eye so I can see clearly to help my brother rid himself of the splinter in his. His point was not ‘I’m OK, you’re OK,’ so let’s sing a happy song of affirmation of our dysfunctions and imperfections. He asked us for humility to understand that we are all dealing with a sinful nature, all recipients of grace. If my message is about ‘those people who sin’ whoever they may be or whatever they may have done, I will slip into a Pharisaical blindness to my own pride. Again, acknowledging my own sins does not preclude bearing witness to the Truth. It means I lead the way to the Cross of Christ where I find myself set right with a holy God.
Third, I must never speak to gain applause or be silenced by a desire for approval. It may sound arrogant, please forgive me that, but it matters little what anyone ultimately thinks of me. That does not mean that I am beyond accountability or free to say whatever comes to mind. When the Bible tells me that God sees past my words and my actions to the very intents and motives of my heart, I am equally comforted and terrified! Nothing in me is hidden from Him. While I am completely assured of heaven through Christ Jesus I also know that He will hold me accountable for how I live, what I say, and how I used those opportunities He presented to me. Yes, that is beyond sobering. It makes me feel the fear of God.
In the opening of the book of the Acts, a promise that the Spirit of God would live in us is made. And why does He come to us? Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV) We are empowered to be those who bear witness to Him – Who is Truth and Love!
So, my prayer is to be winsome, compassionate, and wise even as I am fearlessly committed to the messages of sin and redemption. In a culture that has more and more “Nones” (those with no faith) and “Dones” (those who are fed up with organized Church) may we find a way to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4.15)
Here is a word from the Word. “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:13-18, NIV) Amen.