I could feel my heart dancing in my chest as I read through multiple messages of praise over my recently published article on slander. People from across the country were opening up about how they’ve been harmed by hateful talk from Christians and how it excites them to know that there are Christians out there willing to speak out about it. God did His glorifying work in me, and it was such a blessing to see the fruit of it.
Yet one thing pained me. I was convicted by the subtitle that hung below the article, stating: reclaiming the lost art of speaking the truth in love. My article was more about calling out unwholesome talk, not suggesting a way to speak the truth in love.
In fact, I witnessed a number of people who walked away from my article questioning what it means to speak the truth in love when there are people out there who are harming the Christian message. Why show them love? And if speaking the truth in love is as black and white as it appears within Scripture, then how do we do it?
A small number of people who spoke out about my article thought that to speak the truth in love meant to compromise truth in confrontational situations. They believe that if a pastor regards President Obama in a loving way, then that person must be compromising truth. To them, the truth is suppose to hurt. But I’m writing this post to show that while the truth does hurt, it should also have a chance to lead to restoration. I’m writing this to show people how to speak the truth in love.
To do this, I will refer to one of my favorite dialogues in the whole Bible: Jesus talking with the woman at the well in John 4. I’ve studied this dialogue extensively, and I love it. Why? Because it so adequately reflects our culture today!
In John 4, we see Jesus weary from His journey, perch Himself by Jacob’s well outside a Samaritan town called Sychar. Then comes a Samaritan prostitute, who is probably looking for a lot more than water at the well if you know what I mean. You see, this woman probably had an idea that she will meet her lover at the well, like when Jacob met Rachel at the well in Genesis 29. Little did she know, she did meet her lover: her God in Heaven, Jesus Christ!
In verses 16 and 17, we see Jesus call out the woman on her sin. Now this very much coincides with what some people’s conception on truth-telling is. They believe the truth hurts. And I agree. Speaking the truth in love does require calling out. But stay tuned because things are about to get interesting!
What happens next is that the woman tries to avoid her sin by calling on a religious/political debate (John 4:20). It is as if she is using her conception of what a Jew is to justify her staying stagnant in her sin. And this happens today! When people run into Christians, they form these conceptions of who they are by saying in their minds, ‘Oh, this guy is just here to judge me, so I’m not going to listen to him.’ They try to change the subject and give themselves a reason not to believe. But how Jesus responds is remarkable. He transforms the conversation from being about trivial things like where one worships, to things of true spiritual importance, like how one worships. And then in the end (John 4:26), He so powerfully proclaims that He is the Messiah.
And there you have it. The woman believes and is restored in every sense of the word. But it doesn’t end there! In John 4:39, we see the Samaritan woman return with others. Her testimony allowed others to be saved! It literally built up the body and drew more believers in. That is what is so beautiful about this picture here in John 4: her accepting a call to repentance not only leads to redemption for herself, but also for others. That is what it means to speak the truth in love.
Speaking the truth in love means calling out and offering a call to repentance through Jesus Christ.
So tell me, was the pastor who sent out an unnecessary tweet about the President offering him a call to repentance? If not, then can we characterize it as speaking the truth in love?
That is the fine line between confronting with truth and handling with love. We find that doing this is not compromising truth. It is sharpening it with action. Love is the vehicle through which truth is conveyed. So as we go forth from here, let us boldly proclaim the Word of God, proclaiming the truth in love.