Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking the Truth in Love

Recently, my conversations with fellow Christians seem to be about speaking to a brother or sister in the faith that has- 1) not followed God’s Word  2) Stepped out into a life of Sin or 3) is offending and hurting the flock.  I see a kind of “fear” that comes across some Christians when they know a fellow brother or sister is out of sync with God- but they don’t want to be the one to tell them. Instead, they would rather pray for them and hope that God speaks to them about it. They “don’t want to hurt their feelings”. Doesn’t that go against everything that Jesus teaches us?
Paul wrote to Timothy, trying to encourage him and build him up in the faith. We see it all through Paul’s epistles. However, in 1 Timothy 1:3-6 Paul is commanding, and urging Timothy to speak up! If a brother or a sister has offended you, or is hurting the flock then we need to speak up! Instead of being tolerant and “complaining” about it to God and others- we need to go to that brother or sister and say- “Hey, you hurt me, or that is not what God’s word teaches.”
Now, God lays out specific guidelines on how we are to approach and speak to that fellow Christian in His Word. It all starts with Jesus- doesn’t everything?
Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother”. Jesus tells us to go to that brother or sister and tell them that they have hurt you, or that they are walking away from God. (Anytime we walk in sin, we walk away from God).  What we learn through Paul speaking to Timothy is how we are to go and speak to that fellow Christian.
1 Timothy 1:3-6 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia- remain in Ephesus that you may charge (command) some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies; which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now, the purpose of the commandment is love, from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some having strayed have turned aside to idle talk.”
When I read this, my heart was pricked. I struggle with this “speaking the truth in love” to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of going to my brother in love, I go to others and complain- even to God and complain about what was said or what just happened. Paul commands Timothy NOT to do that- not to follow the example of some in the church. So, how then are we to know that we are “speaking the truth in love”?
The whole purpose of speaking to that brother or sister is love- the commandment is love, from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. Love is translated here as “agape”. It is God’s love for this brother or sister that has strayed to restore them to Him. He does not want disputes, hurt feelings, lack of respect or any other sin to creep into the body. Keeping that in mind, we then can go to our brother or sister- seeking restoration, not condemnation.
First, we are to have a pure heart- I liked the picture here that described what it meant to have a pure heart. It means that our hearts have been cleaned- “freshly cleaned by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit”. (Vines Expository Dictionary) Before we even take one step towards speaking to our offender- we must first go to God and get our hearts “cleansed and pruned”. We need to ask God to show us our offenses our trespasses, then humbly bow before Him and be cleansed. Then we will have the pureness of heart to go to our brother and speak to them. If we allow God to cleanse our hearts, then it will no longer be of us- but will be of God, and the fruit that we will bear will be of restoration.
Next, Paul tells Timothy that it needs to be from a good conscience. What is my motivation? Am I speaking to this brother/ sister to tear them down or am I seeking restoration? Am I looking to point out their faults to them, or am I truly looking to restore them to the path of righteousness in Christ Jesus? Our conscience should bear witness to edification, not condemnation of that fellow Christian.
Lastly, Paul urges Timothy to have this come from sincere faith- meaning, un-hypocritical. Meaning- you yourself have checked your life, your heart and are free from these same transgressions, your faith is pure and true and you are walking the talk. If we go to our brother or sister and start to tell them what they are doing wrong- we need to check our walk and make sure we are not doing the same thing.
It all comes down to this- if and when a brother or sister in the faith has hurt you, has strayed from the truth, it is our responsibilities as children of God to go and tell them. We have become a tolerant body- allowing sin and false doctrines to creep in. You look around at the church today- we are scared to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we don’t say anything. We are scared to tell the pastors and leaders of the flock that they are wrong- that is not what God’s word says. Look at how many “Christians” are walking a walk without knowledge- because they are not taught the word of God correctly.
We must, as Christians, be bold in what God has called us to do. We must teach His word without hypocrisy, without dissimulation- rightly dividing the truth of God and “speaking it in love”. If someone in the faith has hurt you- go to them and tell them. Why are we so afraid? When did we as Christians become “politically correct”?  
What happens when we fail to follow God’s teaching?  We as a body, as a church fall into the “idle talk” that Paul speaks of.  Instead of restoration, we start to complain, we start to gossip, and the body is torn in two. Churches are broken and the individuals are scattered. Sin creeps in and our witness for Christ becomes a joke to the world around us. Do not let bitterness, unforgiveness and complaining settle in your heart- get it out, it is not from God. Go to that sister and say, “I love you, I truly love you and what you are going to hear you may not like nor agree with, but if I don’t speak then I myself am no longer walking in God’s will for my life. So, please bear with me as I speak what is in my heart-“then speak it!  By doing so, you will gain a sister or a brother- by not doing it, you will have placed a wedge between the two of you and that is not what God desires.
God desires unity with the brethren, nothing more, nothing less- pure, sincere Unity. God is a God of unity and Restoration. We must also be like Him- unified and restored.