Monday, May 18, 2020

Speaking the Truth in Love

1 Corinthians 16:5-7
[5] I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, [6] and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. [7] For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is largely a letter of rebuke. Throughout the letter he is rebuking and correcting them. But that does not mean that he does not love them. A friend told me that he did not like the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” from Ephesians 4:15 because whenever he hears someone use it, they always follow it with a criticism. I get that, and yet that is exactly what we need to do. Not all truth is critical truth. Some truth is encouraging truth. Still, it seems that we tend to criticize more than we encourage. That being said, there are times when rebuke and criticism is necessary. Paul needed to address some difficult issues with the Corinthian believers. That did not mean that he did not love them.

Pastors need to understand this. One website begins a post with these words, “Some Evangelical pastors promote an anger theology.” The author is right, although that is hardly the mind of Christ. Pastors need to understand that whatever they need to say to their congregations, they must first love them.

Congregations need to understand this as well. Just because a pastor challenges you or rebukes you does not mean that you are not loved. The Apostle Paul challenged and rebuked the Corinthians, but closed his letter by expressing his love for them. He wanted to see them. He wanted to spend time with them. He did not want to just stop by for a few minutes on his journey through the area, he wanted to spend some time with them. Paul loved the Corinthians and they knew that they were loved.

It is important that we do not just follow a criticism with a short, “You know I love you, right?” If we are to rebuke people, they must first know that they are loved, and then they must be reminded again that they are loved. Paul had spent considerable time with the Corinthians. They had significant history. That is why Paul could rebuke them and they knew they were still loved. Constructive criticism must flow out of trust. Trust is built in love. That takes time and effort. Yes, we must speak the truth in love, but let us make sure that we actually love, and that those to whom we are speaking truth know that they are loved.

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