Christianity in America tends to latch on to catch phrases that people like to use in EVERY context possible but really fall short in some situations. “One day at a time” and “God never puts more on you than you can handle” and similar phrases are nice, quip-py phrases meant to be helpful but how helpful are they in every situation?
Right now, I see tweets and facebook posts about “building bridges” and “earning the right to speak the truth in love” to someone and while these are meant to encourage being relational, in certain contexts they are incorrect. Please understand that I am a biblical counselor and those of you who know me personally know that I am a sensitive, relational guy; however, if we are not thoughtful and careful, we may offend our Holy God who has bestowed upon Christians the authority to speak His truth in His love to others.
When I am counseling someone who is in the throes of disobedience no matter what the issue and I am concerned that he (or she) may not come back for a second session, I am compelled to admonish the unruly (I Thess. 5:14). Part of being a good biblical counselor is discerning the type of counselee I am talking to and if they are unrepentant, God has given me the authority to speak His truth as lovingly as possible to those in direct disobedience and destined for hell for all of eternity. I don’t have time “to build a bridge” in this scenario. My counselee is headed for hell and I must be urgent about his eternal need!!!
In the first session, my counselee(s) may not know me or know that I love him in Christ, but is that really all that important? My primary concern is always to glorify God and while that may include a delicate balance of truth and grace, I am not concerned about whether or not my counselee likes me or even believes if I love him. I DO love him in Christ and it’s because I love him that I speak the truth in love to him as best and quickly as I can. Sometimes I think “earning the right” is simply an excuse to delete truth from the “truth in love” equation God requires in Ephesians 4:15-16.
Real truth always is loving.
Real love is always truthful.
Proverbs 27:5-6 states: Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Do I want to be gentle like Galatians 6:1 states? Of course! I’m not about harsh truth but I’m not about deleting the truth completely. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus starts out by saying ALL AUTHORITY has been given to Him by God and then He is giving us the command and commision “to make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (or OBEY) all that He has commanded” me to obey so I’m not telling them anything that I am exempt from! Maybe that’s the best way to deliver the truth in love to your counselee: “Listen, Friend, I am only telling you what God says that you and I both must obey as I am under this same command myself.”
Understand, I am always for gentleness and compassion. My points in this post are quite simple:
1) EARNING THE RIGHT: None of us apart from Christ have any right to say anything to anyone else. To do so would be to preach ourselves and not Christ. Therefore, God in Christ has given us the right to speak HIS truth in HIS love to others (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1:28). Don’t give up your God-given authority by being afraid to speak the truth. If the rich young ruler in Mark 10:22 turned away from the love of Christ because of His truthful and loving message, you may receive the same response! Be bold and loving at the same time and don’t fall for the lie that you have to “earn the right to speak God’s truth in the love of the Holy Spirit.” You have no rights apart from Christ to say anything other than when the Holy Spirit leads you to speak what His message is!
2) BUILDING BRIDGES: Some situations are more urgent than others but you never know when a counselee (or friend or loved one) may be walking out the door for the final time. Eternity is at hand for all of us and we are simply one car wreck and accident away from spending time in the next life. Don’t take it for granted that you or your counselee are going to live forever. We need to live in light of eternity at all times! You may not have time to “build bridges” with your counselees so don’t let this be an excuse for passivity! If we really understand what type of place hell is and that many are going there (broad is the way to destruction, narrow is the gate to heaven), then we would be more urgent at the right times!
-Mark (glad for biblical truth and correct contexts to apply those truths in love)