A colleague of mine, someone who is a believer in Jesus Christ, recently took issue with a statement I made about sin and salvation. This individual was upset that I had told an unbeliever they were a sinner that needing saving. When the unbeliever asked what he was doing wrong, I pointed out specific life choices that the Bible teaches will separate us from God. It was done in truth and love. I didn’t blast them, but neither did I hide the truth of their situation from them. To me, not speaking truth out of a fear of offending people isn’t loving; it’s hateful. Sometimes reality hurts, and Christians can’t be afraid to speak the truth in love and must stop apologizing for defending positions of truth. It’s not that we hate people, we simply believe the Gospel message that declares our guilt. However, fear stifles so many who name the name of Christ, and my boldness bothered my colleague.
This fear to take a position on the issues of the day, on morality, on godlessness and on sinfulness has paralyzed the church. Many well-meaning, God-fearing Christians are frozen in place, unable to speak truth into the world around them. They don’t want to be unliked, so they stay quiet. They don’t want to appear mean, so all they do is share inspiring memes filled with fluff. They don’t want to defend anything, so they stand for nothing.
…Speak the truth in love… -Ephesians 4:15
And that brings us to an important point: The Gospel means Good News, and rightly so. It’s the Good News about God saving us through Jesus Christ. But the problem lies in the thinking of my colleague (and many believers similar to this person), namely, that you can have the Good News without bad news first. That message is a Gospel without power, because it doesn’t provide a need that can be fulfilled. It’s a self-help, congratulatory mush that doesn’t go any deeper than the surface. It doesn’t need to start defending positions because it takes no positions! It provides no real power to save, because the power to save is just that…to save.
When you say Good News exists, you must be willing to define why it’s good, and the only reason the Good News is good is because the bad news is so bad. It’s the definition of the salvation message. We are lost, going to hell, separated from our Creator, doomed to eternal destruction. That’s the bad news. But thanks to God’s grace, we have a way of escape through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That’s the Good News.
What many modern Christians are trying to do is avoid any negative words and statements that would make the sinner feel bad. They would rather hug them into the church instead of teaching them the doctrine of Christ. Love becomes the unifier, the only thing that matters. Let doctrine be cast aside! Stop defending positions! But love isn’t what unites the Church. True doctrine unites the church. Anybody can have love, and the church should both practice and preach love. But let’s stop pretending that we have a monopoly on love. Love is the default position of our world and the mass media. Atheists have love. Buddhists have love. Muslims have love. But truth is what unites the church. And the truth of Jesus Christ and him crucified so that we can be set free from sin is the message the world needs to hear.
The only reason the Good News is so good is because the bad news is so bad.
Every fast food restaurant, clothing line, jewelry store, tech company and tv show advertises love. Do Christians believe that loving others is the only thing needed? Should we throw away our doctrine in favor of unity with a culture that preaches love without truth? It should be obvious to every believer that the answer is no. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. American Christianity in many places has become shallow and weak, defined only by a desire to be kind, share with others, pet puppies and dance on rainbows, and if any believer dares open his mouth and share the truth of sinfulness, he’s told he’s hateful, intolerant, and hard-headed. It’s the big lie many in the Church have bought hook, line and sinker. Defending positions becomes equated to legalism and bigotry. It’s a false equation.
The United Methodist church recently faced a dilemma at their general conference. Should they side with culture and allow same-sex marriages and gay clergy in the pulpit, or should they stick with the Bible’s teachings on sexuality? The conservative African bishops overcame the liberal American bishops and saved the UMC, but the narrative doesn’t say this. We’re informed that the conservatives in Africa are harsh, unloving, and intolerant. The true lovers, we’re told, are the LGBT groups in America. The script has been flipped.
When a major political party (the Democrats) espouse murdering children after birth, how can a true Christian stay silent? Is it better to be tolerant and kind to people who support infanticide, rather than risk alienating someone from Christ because you defend the defenseless? How could you silently agree with such heinous thinking? This isn’t about Democrats vs Republicans, because we all know the GOP hasn’t plenty of problems on its own. This is about right vs. wrong…and on a whole host of issues beyond just abortion. There are so many areas of our culture that require a believer’s voice, but the believer has been tricked into thinking she must stay quiet.
A word of caution for my colleague and those in the boat of tolerance without truth: get back to the Bible. Culture will continue to shift in favor of subjective truth and uncertain doctrine. As these days get darker, the world needs a body of believers more committed, more certain, and more confident in what they believe. The culture around us needs us to start defending positions of truth. The only hope this world has is a church that isn’t afraid to speak that truth in love.
When the Apostles Peter and John were threatened by culture to stop speaking truth in Acts chapter 4, they didn’t go back to the church and complain. They didn’t pray that God would give them more relevance or make society like them more. They didn’t pressure other believers to speak less about truth and more about love. They prayed for boldness. They asked for the courage to speak MORE. They prayed for the boldness to say it louder and with more conviction. Acts 4:29…
“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.”
We must stand firm. We must be bold. We must not be afraid to start defending positions of righteousness.
Speak the truth in love.