As a Christian, have you ever had those times when you thought, “I can’t speak that hard-to-hear truth to my friend. That could cause a rupture in our relationship. Or lead to future awkwardness…”?
I certainly have. Especially since I tend to be a harmonizer — someone who looks for concensus and doesn’t enjoy conflict.
Grace and truth are held together in Jesus Christ (John 1:17). But let’s be honest, most of us are better at extending grace than speaking difficult truths in love to those we love.
One of my former seminary professors prodded me in this area with his challenging words below. While his words are directed to pastors, they easily apply to all Christians. This excerpt was drawn from an 11,000 word theological discussion on facebook (yes, things like that tend to show up on your mini-feed when you’re friends with professors).
“After one sermon I preached at a friend’s church, I noticed the pastor and his wife, who are dear dear friends, were silent.
Finally, I asked, “You did not like that sermon did you?”
He said, “It was too ‘Christ against culture’.”
She said, “It did not sound like you.”
That is the point, I thought.
The message is the word of God and sometimes the Scriptures lead us where we do not want to go and say things that we do not want to say. Every honest pastor feels the contradiction between his life and the message he is called to preach.
Anytime we render a judgment about the good someone is going to feel the sting.
To use Luther’s language, some will hear it as gospel that liberates and delights and others will hear it as law that condemns because it names an omission or a commission.
As a Christian, submitting to the Lordship of Christ fundamentally means that no element of our lives is off limits. All aspects are subject to his judgment. And because we all have sined and fallen short, all of us will feel the sting of God’s judgment – a sting intended to call us to repentance and the joy of grace.
Sins such as gluttony are forms of the world’s brokenness. When we name such and such actions or thoughts as sin we name that brokenness, that disordered love that is in need of healing and reordering.
The prophetic office entails naming sin, naming the brokenness of the world (and declaring God’s good will for his creation), however painful it is to say and for them to hear. But the good pastor/prophet in compassion is with her people in their brokenness.”
Do you have trouble speaking truth in love? Have you ever had an experience where this went much worse than expected? Better?