Speak the truth in love

Published 10:39 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

By Thurman Hayes

John Piper, in his book, “Contending For Our All,” states the following: “Some controversy is crucial for the sake of life-giving truth. Running from it is a sign of cowardice. But enjoying it is usually a sign of pride.”

In other words, because there are things that are wrong in this world, we are called upon to have the courage to confront those things. It’s not that we like engaging in confrontation — it’s that love sometimes demands it.

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This takes place in families all the time. When moms and dads refuse to discipline little kids, they grow unruly. It’s not that we enjoy disciplining them. If we do, that’s not good. But because we love them, we know we must discipline them.

It’s the same with bigger children. Spankings or “time out” may no longer be appropriate, but painful conversations may be. This is hard. No loving parent enjoys having tough conversations with teenage or young adult children. But because we love them, we must.

The same dynamic takes place in marriages, work places, friendships and churches. If things are going to be healthy, we must be willing to have painful conversations with people. These must be done in a spirit of humility, gentleness and love — but they must be done.

Some of us recoil from having conversations that confront. Count me in that number. I would rather do almost anything else. Yet I have learned over the years that love demands it.

And, at some point along the line, I figured out that an unwillingness to do so is actually cruel. When we care more about being liked by people than actually helping them, that’s not love. We have to stop fearing people and start loving them.

Thank God that Jesus didn’t come to this earth and say the things people wanted to hear. He came and spoke the truth we needed to hear. And it got Him crucified. But without the cross, there would have been no redemption for us sinners.

Thank God that the Apostle Paul cared more about building healthy churches and pleasing God than pleasing people. He says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

Thank God that throughout church history there have been men and women who cared more about pleasing God than pleasing people. One thinks of Athanasius, who led the church back to a biblically faithful view of the Trinity in the fourth century. One thinks of J. Gresham Machen, who stood valiantly for the truthfulness of the Bible in the early 20th century.

Both of these men suffered much for their courageous stands. But they were willing to take those stands, out of love for God and love for people.

Nobody in their right mind enjoys having people get angry with them. If we do, we need to check our hearts. But if our goal in life is to be liked by whatever person is sitting in front of us, we need to check our hearts. The goal of a loving person or a loving leader is not to say what is pleasing, but to speak the truth in love.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.