Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Equipping You To Share The Truth In Love

When God's church engages our culture with His loving message we are often perceived as judgmental, hypocritical and unloving. Since God has laid upon us the mission of communicating His truth, the onus lies upon us to do our very best to make sure that what we are communicating is clear, true and helpful to those we are communicating to.

Fifty years ago in Canadian culture the church was generally viewed as a helpful and trusted source for information. Today, culture has shifted and the church is no longer viewed in a generally favorable light. In fact, our world views us  with suspicion and even contempt. Communicating the truth of the gospel to our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family must be done with an awareness of how we are perceived and an attempt to overcome the barriers that present themselves. How can we do this?

Sincere love. As we relate people in the world we live in we can start by being sincere in our love for them. Rather than seeing them as impersonal souls to be "harvested" or potential "notches" on our soul-winning belt. We must engage them as people and love their whole person; spirit, soul and body. We must ask God to help us sincerely love them without "strings attached". One of the best ways we can do this is by simply engaging with people fully in each moment, caring about their needs and desires and listening carefully to them. It's amazing how these behaviors that communicate sincere love happen more naturally when we genuinely care. May God help us genuinely care for those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Sensitive love. Sometimes we can think that for truth to really get through to people, it must be presented with a harsh and even angry attitude. Although there is a time and place for blunt and forceful communication, I believe Christians would be wise in our current cultural malaise to use a far different approach when presenting truth. The goal is not to change or even soften the truth, it is simply to present it with a gentle, sensitive and tenderhearted approach.

Compassionate love. When our neighbor is hurting it is easy to become cold and mechanical about their pain. Sometimes we do this as a coping mechanism because there is too much pain for us to process. Sometimes we do it because we feel that the best way to diagnose and help them with their pain is to remain aloof so that we can properly help them with it. But Jesus sets us the example of one of ached with pity and compassion when people were hurting (Matthew 9:35-38) and who reached out to touch the leper while bringing him healing. This is a love that is willing to get personally involved and empathizes with pain rather than remaining indifferent. Every human being has sorrow and suffering as part of their journey, if we can learn to enter into their suffering, even as Christ does for us, we can offer a kind of love that our world longs for and that earns us permission to share the truth they so desperately need.

How often I have tried to be loving without compromising on the truth. I think I may have communicated more accurately with our culture had I made more effort to communicate truth without compromising on love! Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that they would be "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17). I find it interesting that he didn't ask that they would be rooted and grounded in truth (That would fit more with my preconceptions of what it means to be rooted or grounded).  Of course, it doesn't need to be one or the other - but maybe in emphasizing truth and neglecting authentic love we have miscommunicated with a culture that is hearing from us things we are not meaning to say.

Good communication has not taken place until the hearer receives what the communicator intended. I am increasingly convinced that for the truth of God to be accurately communicated in our culture is must be wisely and carefully wrapped in a sincere, sensitive and compassionate love. May God fan the flames of authentic love in us so that more and more people can hear and receive God's truth through us, a people who are rooted and grounded in the love that is so high and wide and deep that it is beyond comprehension.