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Speaking the truth in love
- Jacob Ninan
Rare is the person who is able to take a straight word of correction. People usually tend to deny any fault or to justify themselves when they are confronted. As a result, very few people are willing to point out to others their faults for fear of offending them. Most people think they are keeping quiet out of love for the others! There is misunderstanding here on both sides.
We all know we have many faults, and that is why we need to saved from them in order to become more like Jesus. But it pains us to hear about our faults from someone else. One reason is that we are very insecure in ourselves and our self-image will get broken if we are made to acknowledge some fault. The way out of this is to recognise that Jesus has made us acceptable to God by making an atonement for all our flaws. God has now accepted us as we are, with all our faults and lacks, because of His great love for us. Now He is working in us to transform us into His image. This process involves our acknowledging our flaws whenever we notice them, confessing them to God and turning to Him for replacing them with His nature. Any attempt we make to preserve our self-esteem by denying our faults is only going to hinder this transformation.
On the other hand, sometimes God may want to use us to help others whom we meet in our lives. It is somewhat easy if other people recognise we are more spiritual than they are (Ga.6:1). Even here, unless we do this very tactfully, the chances are that they will get hurt. Then, instead of benefitting from that correction, they may turn against us, and even harden their heart against the truth God was trying to tell them.
We can do this only if we truly love them. Love here means to desire their very best, and being willing to do anything to bless them. If we love them like this, we could tell them things that will help them to set certain things right so that it will go better with them. What commonly happens is that people tell others their faults only to belittle them or to accuse them, and then it will only hurt the relationship between them. God expects everyone of us, His children, to grow like this, receiving and giving correction, encouragement, comfort and instruction from and to one another (Ep.4:15,16).
Helping people by pointing out errors to avoid as well as to get rid of involves bits of prophecy, teaching and shepherding. This is not a popular ministry. People may judge us as if we were conceited, judgmental, and holier-than-all. The question is if we do this out of love for God and others. Timothy, young as he was, was given the task, apart from other tasks, to point out the errors that had crept into the church through deceiving spirits (1Ti.4:6). That wouldn't have made him popular. People want to hear nice words that make them feel good (2Ti.4:3), and that is how one must preach to become popular. But imagine if a doctor would give only health foods and didn't bother to deal with infections!