Speak the Truth in Love

The most quoted verse these days is not "For God so loved the world," but "Judge not." Unfortunately, we often fail to understand what this means.

In our own church, a Bible believing fellowship, years ago I spoke to a Sunday school class in which one of the couples stood up and shared that their unborn child had a serious disease and would not live long after birth. They said that the doctor had given them their options and they were meeting with him the next day and needed to make their decision about what they were going to do. The red flag was waving—almost certainly, one of the options (often the only one if it's a genetic defect, which it was) was abortion. The "options" are, give birth to a child who will almost certainly die, or take the life of the child before she is born.

After the class I watched as people briefly greeted this couple, nodded to them, likely said they'd be praying and went out the door. People seemed warm and friendly and caring. But no one talked more than a minute, which made it obvious they were not dealing with the question: what kind of options are we talking about?

I went to the couple, and we stayed afterward talking for nearly an hour. It turns out they were leaning toward abortion. In the absence of counsel to the contrary that would likely have been their direction. I explained the difference between God being allowed to take their child's life, and them choosing to take the child's life. They ended up having the child, who lived for a month in a family full of love, held by mom and dad and the other children. Proudly they showed us and their class the pictures of this precious child.

I am haunted by the fact that in our pro-life church, not one person in a Sunday School class of 100 took this couple aside. Surely someone realized the "options" probably included abortion. Likely, they didn't want to be judgmental or to make them feel guilty if they'd chosen abortion. But we owe it to people to tell them the truth, saturated with grace and kindness and empathy.

stopWe all know that one of the ways we fail each other in the body of Christ is by our judgmental and self-righteous attitudes. What we don't seem to realize is how often we fail each other by looking the other way and not going to each other to give warning and wisdom and edification. (For example, a pastor who ends up leaving his wife and kids for his secretary, and dozens of church people, including leaders, saying, "I knew they were involved, or headed that way; I could just see it.") Well, it wasn't grace and non-judgmentalism that kept them from speaking up—it was indifference or cowardice or the lie that we are not our brother's keeper, that we don't have a responsibility to each other and to God.

Sometimes we assume people know that they are wrong. We think we're being nonjudgmental and gracious to them by not sitting down with them and kindly sharing what God says about sex and marriage. In fact, we are being neglectful or cowardly. We fall for the lie that sin can be in someone's true best interests. It can't be. It never is. Matthew 7 doesn't tell us not to help remove the splinters from our brother's eye. It tells us to remove the log from our own eye, so we can see more clearly to remove the splinter from our brother's eye.

We owe it to each other to do what Scripture commands: "Speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).

For more on this topic, see Randy’s book The Grace and Truth Paradox.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries