Which is more important: to tell someone the truth or to make them feel loved? Perhaps you’ve felt this dilemma if you’ve ever had something difficult to tell someone or felt convicted to speak with them, and you knew the truth would hurt them. Or, maybe you’ve observed someone treating others in the exact opposite manner. They are the type of person who is concerned with truth and place an emphasis on right and wrong, but they don’t seem to care at all how their words affect those around them.
So, which is more important; TRUTH or LOVE? Is it more important for me to be honest with people at the expense of their feelings or is it more important to guard people’s feelings at the expense of truth?
The Bible makes clear that Christians have a responsibility to do both. Ephesians 4:15 tells Christians to speak “the truth in love”.
As a father, it’s important for me to teach my children right and wrong. It is important for me to correct them and discipline them when they misbehave. However, it is equally important for me to love them. It is equally important for me to build them up and encourage them. As a church member and pastor, it is important for me to speak truth when I observe something sinful or unbiblical, but it is equally important for me to do it in a way that demonstrates Christ’s love.
I believe that there are three types of people when it comes to this truth and love dilemma:
The first type of person lets their heart control them. They love other people, and because they love, they would rather gloss over necessary truths because they don’t wish to offend. If we could use an absurd example to demonstrate the flaw in this approach: imagine a person you love is on the vacation of their dreams. They are sitting on a beach in a tropical paradise, with no stress and no work. They have labored hard for this break! They want to be left alone and they don’t want anything to disturb their rest. Unfortunately, as they sit on the beach, you learn of a tidal wave headed straight toward them. We know that they won’t like to hear the news of something disrupting their peaceful vacation, but if you really love them, you’ll warn them of the approaching danger. While that is an extreme example, here’s a truth for you: the destructiveness of a natural disaster pales in comparison to the eternal consequences of sin. As such, if we love people (which we are supposed to), we’ll speak truth.
The second type of person doesn’t care if they offend others, so long as what they are saying is right. While preparing for a church activity, these are the type that bark orders at others. Instead of sometimes turning the other cheek, this type of person fights every battle, never measuring the temporary issue against the weight and significance of eternity. This type of person will push a custom onto a non-believer, and miss the opportunity to share with them the Gospel. This type of person treats sinners with contempt, forgetting that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. We’ve seen church members bicker over details of no eternal consequence. Instead of pointing people to Christ, we’ve seen Christians speak in disgust and hopelessness over the present generation as if sin were a new thing. We’ve seen parents tear down children and we’ve seen believers ensure that everyone knows that they are in the right, instead of enduring unjust suffering with grace (1 Peter 2:21-25). Oh, we’ve seen this second type of person. They are the type that speak truth, but often forget to couple it with love. Perhaps we’ve done more than simply see this type of person … perhaps we’ve been this type of person.
But there is a third type of person who wisely seeks both truth and love in their conversations and actions. This person cares about upholding God’s standard, but they also realize that people are created in God’s image and should therefore be treated with respect (cf. James 3:9-12). This third type of person realizes that the truth of the Gospel is certainly the message—and that does mean recognizing the reality of sin—but love is our method. Love is the very reason for the Gospel message. Love is the only reason Christ died for us. As such, Christians are called to live a life that demonstrates and speaks truth and love. So if you speak, truth should be your message. But when you speak—and we shore realize that we don’t always have to speak—love should be our motivation and outward expression (cf. James 1:19).
Consider this week how you speak to others. Consider how you speak to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your fellow Christians. Consider how you speak on social media. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth, but don’t neglect to speak it in love.
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