Let me paint a picture for you. You’re walking on a road and you see a friend driving. They pull over for some small talk, a quick catch-up, and then they’re on their way. Now, you know that the road is closed ahead; the bridge has collapsed and they will head right into a ravine if they continue on that path. But you let them drive ahead, even though the road damage is poorly marked and they might miss the signs. You could’ve been the sign but you didn’t want to stop them from enjoying their drive.
Does that sound like love to you? Willingly letting someone drive right off a bridge because you didn’t want to tell them no or warn them of where that road will lead? That’s what we do every day when we take the sting out of the truth for the sake of love.
We all have those people in our lives that we think of when we think of speaking truth in love. You know who came to mind when you read the above scenario. Now if you believe and have put your faith in Christ, let me give you a big heads-up.
Jesus called sin, sin, and still pursued those sinners. Now, this sin manifests itself in our lives in many different ways. For some, it looks like hatred and anger. For others, it looks like gossip, slander. For another group, it’s homosexuality, pornography, or drunkenness. For the especially wicked, it’s any combination of those. I am of the last group. As Christians, we sometimes bear with one of those sin groups better than we do others. Sometimes, we outright enjoy sins and yet condone them in others. And while we are quick to criticize people who live certain lifestyles, we are even more quick to brush off other sin struggles and lifestyles.
The grace that we need to cover our sexual immorality is the same grace that we need to cover our gossiping. The ground is level at the cross, and we all stand condemned. In the Gospel of John, he tells us, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18 NIV) There we have it. It is literally spelled out for us. We all stood condemned. When Jesus walked this Earth, those around Him were already condemned. So He didn’t have to do any of that for them. He was completely free to speak truth with love.
And because we accepted His gift, and only because of His blood washing away our sin, we no longer stand condemned. Therefore, we are completely free to speak the truth with love, just as Jesus did. And in the end, love without truth isn’t loving. And truth without love will fall on deaf ears. It’s a fine line to walk in a society where love means full acceptance of a person as a whole. Love has been redefined as total compliance to someone’s desires, flaws, shortcomings, etc. To be loved, we surround ourselves with only the people who will not challenge us to change or point out the wrong road we might be headed down.
If God is love (1 John 4:8), let’s look at the character of God. Faithful from the start, loving justice and mercy. It was His plan from the start to give us Jesus, His perfect and Holy Son. And, the Apostle Paul tells us to imitate Jesus in every way. Well what did Jesus do? He healed, He broke bread, He came for the sick, and wasn’t afraid to call them sick (Mark 2:13-17). He declared people righteous by their faith. And, He told those who want to follow Him to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
We cheapen the cross when we accept and condone sin. Rosaria Butterfield said it best when she said, “…the cross never makes itself an ally with the sin it must crush, because Christ took our sin upon himself and paid the ransom for its dreadful cost?” Don’t you see? Sin and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross cannot endure each other. One will pass away when the other is declared the winner. They simply cannot coexist.
So, it is not loving to let that friend drive down a road that leads to destruction. It is not loving to call something that is clearly defined as sinful, acceptable. It is loving to let them know that this will not go well for them if they choose to pursue it. Let love be met with truth, both in their fullness. Don’t sacrifice love for truth or truth for love. And certainly don’t sugar coat the truth or lessen the love. The world needs us to be both, just as Jesus was.
Choose to be eternally minded, because it is not loving to condone a lifestyle that God is clear is not consistent with His design. Choose to love others well, and tell them the truth. That is precisely what Jesus would do.
Photo by Jon Tyson