For those who love Christ and seek to walk in His way, there has been and is a holy tension between speaking truth and doing so in love. Paul declares in Ephesians 4 that a part of our maturity is revealed when we are able to speak truth in love.
I don’t know about you, but I find it far easier to speak truth than to do so in love. For one who believes the infallibility and inerrancy in the truth of Scripture and believes in absolute truth, decisions about moral rightness is simplified. Discover the position of Scripture and then stand on that truth. Cultural waves, changing worldviews, Supreme Court decisions, majority polls, or voter decisions will not release us from the moorings of Scriptural truth.
For many of us, the battle for the Bible in Southern Baptist life was a battle worth fighting. Reclaiming the Bible as definitive was essential to walking in truth. Orthodoxy, as an intellectual position, is foundational to the truth walk. Our talk and walk in truth are built on biblical truth.
So, armed with the truth of Scripture, we take our stand on a myriad of moral issues. We denounce sin and call sin “sin.” While the world calls good “evil” and evil “good,” we will not bow or bend. From marriage to sexual orientation, we know the revealed truth and take our stand— for we can do nothing else. That is as it should be!
But my struggle, and that of a large number of you, is to translate these truths into love language. Yes, love tells the truth because truth will set you free. But when the truth is spoken, it must be declared in light of the redeeming Gospel of Jesus.
Take a minute and think about the life of Jesus. Sinners sought Him out, and He looked for them. He did not compromise one truth. He did not change truth to accommodate the sinners. Yet, amazingly the sinners may have turned away sad, but they did not turn away mad! Most of them experienced forgiveness, healing and life change. Consider the Samaritan woman who was marked by immorality—past and present. Jesus confronts her sin, but the end result is seen as she empties her town calling for people to come meet Jesus, who spoke truth in love.
Jesus was simply speaking who He was. Remember, John told us that Jesus, the Logos of God, was full of grace and truth, which is the key. Jesus was full of truth—was the truth—but that truth was shrouded in grace. Consider it. Jesus was the perfect embodiment of love, grace and, yes, truth. He never compromised on truth, but the truth was always spoken wrapped in grace and love.
So, what is our takeaway? The greatest challenge for the church and individual believers in a sin-infested, dark world is to reflect the life of Jesus. Whether homosexuality, same-sex marriage, cohabitation, gambling, abortion, alcohol, marijuana, fornication, adultery, or a thousand other things, we must find biblical truth and stand. But when you do take a stand, never do so without offering and exemplifying love and grace. No sin is beyond the reach of the love and grace of the crucified Savior.
I wish I could give you better advice on how to take a stand in love and grace; I am still learning. Issues such as homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc., present hard truths for me to wrap in love. Those who see no wrong in these issues are strong, intolerant, and committed to make their way the way. Many times, I want to lash out and straighten out. My job is to speak out and fill those words with love and grace, and so my actions must be the same. Tough for straight-up believers.
The closest I have come to taking this type of stand with love and grace is in the abortion fight. I made an early decision that I could see a woman who seeks an abortion as the enemy or the victim. I could stand outside an abortion clinic and yell at those entering, or I could be part of providing a biblical, loving, grace-filled place to help them see the truth. I could preach the truth without compromise, but doing so meant I could never condemn, but only present powerful truth that convicts. Yet, conviction demands relief, and that relief comes when we offer the whole truth, which is the Gospel. Abortion will not send you to hell. You will go through hell on earth when you walk that pathway, but the great God of Heaven has come in the person of Jesus, His only Son, to absorb the pain and sin of abortion. So the abortionist and the one who chose to end the life of her unborn child can be forgiven if they turn to Jesus the Savior. That is truth in love. That is the Gospel.
So church, preach the truth without compromise; live the truth without compromise. But never consider yourself above others because you do. Our challenge is to never declare sterile truth without an overflow of love and grace. We will never reach those burdened with sin until we learn how to speak the truth in love.