By Mike Glenn
Speaking the Truth in Love Means We Don’t Give Up
On any given Sunday, I might mention to the congregation to be gracious to each other because we never know the heart ache that might be seated on the pew with us. Everyone who walks into a church on any given Sunday typically walks in with a load of care.
There’s a couple who is trying to think about how to tell their children they’re getting a divorce.
There’s the man who just found out he didn’t get the promotion he was counting on.
There are the parents whose daughter just told them she thinks she’s gay.
There’s the single mom who can’t afford to give her son everything his friends have.
There’s the young man who just got the diagnosis.
And the older man who just found out his treatments were no longer working.
There are the parents of the young Marine who was just deployed…again.
An old preacher told me, “Mike, be easy on your people. Most of them use all their faith just to get there. All week long, life beats them down, but on Sunday morning, they put on their shoes, come to church and say, ‘Today, I won’t give up.’”
Church members always want me to be more prophetic. You know, call sin a sin. When I hear this, I wince because I know the people who will be wounded more deeply by this message. I’ve also noticed people always want to me confront a sin they don’t deal with. It’s always white men who want me to preach against abortion and obese Baptists who want to condemn drinking alcohol.
Sorry, but it’s just not that easy. It’s not easy to be prophetic when you know too much and it’s not enough to simply tell the truth. Paul admonishes us to speak the truth in love. Most of us can get the first part right. We can speak the truth, but we fail at the second part. We don’t speak the truth in love.
The person we confront feels judged, condemned, and cast out. The conversation ends. Jesus had a remarkable ability to tell someone the truth and keep the conversation going. Look at His conversation with woman at the well. Read it again (it’s in John 4) and see how masterfully Jesus handled that conversation so that woman felt loved, redeemed – rescued.
How long would the conversation have lasted if I had been talking her? I would have been right. She shouldn’t have been living with a man who wasn’t her husband. I would have told her that and that’s where the conversation would have ended.She would have known the truth. She wouldn’t have known the love of Christ. And that’s not good enough.
I have to see these people next week. I want to see these people next week. After 27 years of doing life with the bunch of believers, I grown to love them. I know the hard realities they are dealing with and I want them to succeed in every area of their lives.
They don’t. I know that. But I’m not leaving. I’m here with them for the long haul, however long it might be. Sure, I’ll tell them the truth, but I’m not going anywhere. We’ll stick together until they get it right. I pray they’ll stick with me until I get it right as well.
I’ve grown to understand if you really love someone, you tell them the truth. Whistling while you skirt by tough issues isn’t love, it’s cowardice. And yet, telling someone the truth in a way that does more harm than good, isn’t love either.
According to Paul, love never gives up. Social media has created too many “drive by shoutings.” That is, people who shout out judgement and condemnation to people they have never met and certainly don’t know. Truth can rarely be contained in 140 characters and certainly can’t be understood in that short of space. Most of us need time to soak in the truth, to let it saturate our lives before we truly are able to live it.
This is a key difference. While it is true that Jesus tells us the truth, he never leaves us alone with the truth. He tells us the truth and then, walks with us regardless of the decision we make. If we make a bad decision He stays with us and walks us back home. If we make good decision, He keeps walking with us until reach the next level of commitment.
He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t leave us. This is what speaking the truth in love means. We tell the people we love the truth, no matter how painful it might be, and then, we stay with them. We don’t abandon them if they make bad decisions. We celebrate with them when they make good decisions.
Either way, we don’t leave them.
Anymore than Jesus would leave us. Love seeks the truth. Love rejoices in the truth, but love doesn’t leave because truth didn’t happen.
Love never gives up. Love knows truth will win and we hang in there until it does.