Speaking the truth in love


I had quite the interesting experience before church began on a recent Sunday morning.

As my daughter and I approached the doors, all of the lights were off and the doors were locked. This isn’t unusual as we currently don’t open our doors until 30 minutes before the service starts.

As I fought with my keys in an attempt to unlock the door, it suddenly and extremely unexpectedly opened. Standing there, holding the door open for me was a woman whom I had never seen before. To say the least, I was surprised and a little more than concerned.

I thanked her for her assistance, but internally, I was wondering how to best address the awkwardness of the moment. I took a few steps into the church, turned to the nice lady and asked, “Can I help you?” She replied, “Are you the pastor here?” Which, even in the best of cases, is an extremely dangerous question.

I told her I was, and she informed me that she had presented a packet of information to one of my associates and that she had come to the church that morning hoping to present the information to our congregation.

There’s nothing quite like having someone present you a small book worth of information they want to share less than an hour from “go time.” I assured her I would look through the packet she had provided and get back with her when possible.

When we finished our run-through of the morning’s songs, I exited the sanctuary, and there she was, waiting patiently. I made my way to my office and quickly read through the packet of information.

Within the first pages of her documentation, I found myself in a sticky situation. Just a few weeks earlier, I completed a sermon series arguing the opposite of what she was proposing. Not only could I not allow this information to be presented at FBC, I felt a responsibility to encourage this well-intentioned woman to press pause and to reexamine her information.

The conversation was every bit as awkward as our initial encounter. She was absolutely convinced of her position because some television personality had said so and she had done extensive research, which when asked amounted to looking at a Strong’s Concordance while doing a Google search.

Her heart was good. This nice woman simply wanted to sound a warning about the end of the world. The problem, however, was the warning wasn’t warranted. All her warning would accomplish would be the spread of misinformation and sowing of the seeds of fear and anxiety.

While I understood the truth and had more than enough evidence to back my claim on the truth, I had to make sure I was approaching her with the same courtesy and grace that she was seeking to demonstrate. Both truth and love are fundamental to navigating difficult conversations and awkward situations.

In Ephesians 4:14-15, the apostle Paul encourages his readers to hold firm to the truth, being careful not to be deceived by crafty and misleading teaching. He encourages them to do so by “speaking the truth in love,” arguing that only by doing so will we be able to model the grace of Jesus and join together as a community.

It’s an incredibly simple idea that is exceedingly difficult to execute. As I have watched so many difficult conversations develop, it seems that many of us are having a difficult time discerning what is true, and more than that, we are really struggling to dialogue with love and grace.

To be 100% transparent, I too often ride the struggle bus with this issue. It’s all too easy to be dismissive and demeaning when we know we are right. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to marginalize the truth in order to avoid uncomfortable interactions.

Again, both are absolutely needed, particularly in light of the difficulties of our current day. We need to do a better job of asking ourselves, “Is this true? Is this loving?” And if the answer to either question is no, “Should this really be said?”

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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