Can we avoid the consequences of speaking truth in love?

I do not know if Brandon Eich is a Christian, but there are nevertheless some salient parallels between his recent dismissal from Mozilla and Louie Giglio’s ouster from the President’s inaugural ceremony last year. Both men exhibited a generous spirit toward all people such that both men surprised their “employers” when it became known that they actually supported traditional marriage. Both men were dismissed despite their otherwise amiable disposition.

There is a lesson for Christians here. Yes, we must be winsome. We must be kind. We should not be pugnacious. It matters how we say what we say. It is our joy to love our neighbors and even our enemies. When we walk in this kind of generous spirit, it will open up bridges of opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise be open. All of that is true.

Having said that, Eich and Giglio also force us to come to grips with a hard truth. No amount of winsomeness will exempt us from the reproach that comes when we speak plainly about what the Bible teaches. If you speak plainly about sin, there will always be some who will vilify you as angry, bigoted, hateful or worse. Jesus told us that it would be this way (John 15:18-21).

The only alternatives to this reproach are either to hold the biblical view and not speak plainly or to hold an unbiblical view and speak openly. It is obvious why holding an unbiblical view would not be an option for a true follower of Christ. But what about those who hold the right view but seek to avoid conflict by concealing it? Is this a faithful way to engage the world for Christ? I would argue no for several reasons.

1. Because it’s not loving or faithful to conceal the way of salvation. The message of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has been crucified and raised to save sinners (1 Cor. 15:3-5). The invitation of the gospel is for sinners to repent and believe in Christ in order to receive His free offer of mercy (Mark 1:15). We cannot earn this salvation by doing good works. We can only receive this gift by repentance and faith (Acts 20:19; 26:20). Thus if we refuse to invite sinners to repent of their sin, we cut them off from salvation. It is neither loving toward our neighbor nor faithful to God to conceal their need to repent. We conceal their need to repent when we allow our neighbor to believe that their sin isn’t sin (whatever that sin is, not just homosexuality!).

2. Because the Bible commends us to speak openly. Speaking openly about the sinfulness of sin and the necessity of repentance should not be confused with being combative or angry. Direct speech is not a synonym for angry speech, though some mistakenly think that it is. Regardless of misunderstanding on that point, we are nevertheless called to speak openly about God’s truth. To that end, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” -2 Corinthians 4:2

This is not to say that you must lead-off every conversation with, “Homosexuality is sinful! Repent!” That is absurd. But in the moments when the issue is relevant, we serve our neighbor and we serve the Lord when we point people to the Bible’s message.

3. Because ambiguity is not a long-term possibility anyway. How long can a Christian really conceal their belief in what the Bible teaches? When your gay friend asks you if following Christ means he must repent of his homosexual behavior, what are you going to tell him? To be sure, in a real relationship we often times don’t say everything that needs to be said in one conversation. But can you indefinitely put off that question? I don’t think that you can. And if you do, you are concealing the means by which the Lord has given for him to receive the free offer of the gospel. Even if you adopt a strategy of ambiguity in the short term, you cannot indefinitely hold that position and be faithful to Christ. If you are pursuing a strategy of ambiguity, here’s a question you can use to test yourself. “Am I pursuing this strategy with a definite plan to make things plain very soon? Or am I pursuing this strategy to avoid the reproaches of Christ?”

I would encourage readers to speak to some brothers or sisters that you know whom God has saved from a lifestyle of homosexual sin. Ask them what approach eventually won them over to Christ. Ask them what sustains them in what is sometimes a difficult and trying battle. I think you will find that for all of them—at some point—they came to the conclusion that all Christians come to. Christ is better than our sin, and it would be better to have him than to hold on to sin. That’s what repentance and faith look like at the end of the day. Moral clarity about one’s own sin, and Spiritual resolve to trust Christ no matter what. That’s not a unique path for gay people seeking Christ. It’s the path that all of us have taken if we know Him. Let’s love our neighbors enough to make that path plain.

8 Responses to Can we avoid the consequences of speaking truth in love?

  1. James Stanton April 4, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    “Both men exhibited a generous spirit toward all people such that both men surprised their “employers” when it became known that they actually supported traditional marriage.”

    Denny, I think, and I’m trying to be objective here, that neither of these men surprised their “employers” when it became known they supported traditional marriage. Both of these men were thrown under the bus, so to speak, when their support of traditional marriage became an issue that offended a certain interest group.

  2. andrew alladin April 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    I wonder what Kirsten Powers, Andy Stanley, and Jonathan Merritt would have to say about all this. Many in the early church weren’t even allowed the option of keeping their beliefs to themselves – they were dragged out of their homes and ordered to renounce their faith in public or be put to death. There was no “Benedict option” of retreating into your own faith cubicle – Caesar was to be publicly acknowledged as god. The New Evangelicals and many of the Young, Restless, and Reformed assumed that by retreating from the “culture wars” and by embracing Social Justice, Environmentalism, Immigration Reform, and Economic Justice, that they would be given a pass on biblical beliefs on love, sex, and marriage. “Cultural engagement” with the “creative types” was supposed to put them at ease with Christianity. Hipster Christianity was in and Old Hidebound Fundamentalism was out. Mozilla’s creative types have inadvertently revealed how captive some unbelievers are to the “ruler of this world”.

    • Rick Wilson April 4, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      I would add one thing, you may be surprised that many of the YRRs are jumping back in to the “culture wars” pretty heavily as they are experiencing some of the first battle scars having many city-center ministries. That situation is in heavy flux right now. Lots of homeschooling going on like you would not believe, especially compared to the neo-seeker types.

  3. Brett Cody April 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you, Denny for your reminder! Let us practice wisdom and eloquence as we stand on the Word of God. There is no greater joy than being in Christ!

  4. Flyaway April 4, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    It saddens me when even pastors, who know what the Bible says, deny that homosexual sex is a sin. I pray that God will break through their pride and open their hearts to the truth.

  5. Ian Shaw April 8, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I had to refute this morning via email my own Christian alma mater as they are promoting and hosting a telecast of a leadership conference next month with speakes that include Andy Stanley and Desmond Tutu.

    Wonder what their response will be to me…or how I will resond when they call me for donations later this spring.

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