“speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)
I’ve always been irked by comments about “balancing truth and love”, because the picture it brings to my mind is that somehow truth and love are opposites or contradictory. I just don’t believe that to be true.
Often, the implication is that in order to “balance truth and love” you should ease off or obscure “truth”, maybe be vague or just don’t say some things. As though you have 10 pounds to work with; make sure you don’t put in _too much_ truth. And I just don’t believe that’s right.
I came up with what I believe to be a better understanding. I reject thinking of “truth” and “love” as being opposing forces needed to counteract and balance one another. Rather, we should look at truth and love as legs of a table. They do not oppose each other, rather they both act as supports for the same thing, which is the true message lovingly presented.
The problem with a hard message is not that it has too much truth. The problem may be that it has too little love. One leg of the table is too short. The solution is not to water down or obscure the truth. We should not attempt to make the message more palatable by making it vague or obscure. Instead of sawing off part of the “truth” leg, we need to work on the “love” leg to make sure our message is properly held up by these complementary (not opposing) supports.
Sometimes there are going to be cases where a sharp rebuke, which might not seem at all loving or gentle, will be appropriate, but that’s the exception and not the rule.
And at some level, it’s the message itself, and not the messenger or the presentation, which is fundamentally offensive. There are only so many ways you can present “whosoever believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” and they are all offensive. It’s fundamentally an offensive message, and unless you deliberately obscure it, it will be offensive. It’s _supposed_ to be offensive, because it’s supposed to bring about godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Sometimes the message is just a hard message and it would be wrong to soften it, because you couldn’t do it without hiding or omitting part of the truth.
A former pastor of mine was fond of saying things like “The Pope is a dope” and talking about “Jehovah’s FALSE Witnesses”. He may have been correct, but I don’t think he was keeping the spirit of Ephesians 4:15. The solution is not to pretend that Catholicism is Biblical Christianity, but there are better ways of showing people its errors. Regardless how gently you do it, you will offend people, but you don’t have to go out of your way to be offensive.
A surgeon’s job will necessarily cause people pain. The solution is not to get rid of the surgeon, or dull his scalpel – in fact, he needs a very sharp scalpel. If you need to saw someone’s chest open and go cutting on their heart, then that’s what you’ve got to do. You don’t criticize the mean old surgeon for hurting his patients and tell him he’s unloving. But you _do_ give people anesthesia and pain medicine. It’s still going to hurt, but you do what you can to ease the pain.