Are We Careful to Speak Words of Mercy and Grace, Especially When We Disagree?

Proverbs 6:16-19 says there are six things God hates, seven things detestable to the Lord. “Hands that shed innocent blood” would apply to abortion. “A heart that devises wicked schemes and feet that are quick to rush into evil” could apply to both homosexual and heterosexual sin. But let’s not stop there. The passage also includes a “false witness” and one “who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

Wouldn’t we all like to think that WE couldn’t be guilty of any of the seven things God hates? I would. But if we say that, then we have “haughty eyes” and “lying tongues,” which covers the remaining deadly sins. None of us is innocent, are we?

Those who hold to the authority of Scripture typically agree that things such as adultery, pornography, homosexual relations, lying, and stealing are sins. But so is gossip. So is bearing false witness against your brother. So is pride and arrogance and sowing seeds of disunity.

Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We’re told, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). “Strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). Jesus also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

God has indeed called us to battle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). This takes boldness and courage. But do not mistake expressions of slander, cruelty, and verbal mob behavior as doing spiritual battle. Humility, grace, and peacemaking are often God’s greatest tools in the battle for righteousness and justice. (It’s all too easy to mistake each other as the enemy!)

Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” What are we doing to cultivate this kind of unity? Sometimes we must disagree with our brothers and sisters in Christ. But are we going out of our way to assume the best rather than the worst? Do we discipline ourselves to share our opinions as Jesus would, in a spirit of love and grace?

I plead with the Christian community to respond to others with greater grace and humility. While “Judge not lest you be judged” is perhaps the most misused statement from Scripture, it does have its proper application. So does, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall,” and “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

So too does James 2:13, which says “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Where is the mercy among evangelical Christians? Personally, I’ve seen a lot of it. Over the years, I've also seen a lot of unmerciful condemnation of the sort that Jesus repeatedly denounced.

Now I realize that some know nothing but “mercy” and tolerance, while knowing nothing of truth. I am not advocating this. I am a truth-oriented person. Truth has been very important to me ever since I came to Christ as a teenager. I was brought out of lies to believe the truth, and it is sacred to me.

But Jesus often condemned the Pharisees, those whose doctrine was closest to His own. Why? For their lack of grace. I do not want the truth to be compromised. Our Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” (That’s the heart of my book The Grace and Truth Paradox.)

It’s common (especially online) for us as believers to question the motives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This troubles me. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

God tells us, essentially, “Don't set up your own judgment seat, because I know the motives of the heart that you don’t.” We lack a few important qualifications for being judges: not only holiness, but also a little thing called omniscience!

These words of our Lord are worth repeating: “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

I have sometimes spoken careless words against my brothers and sisters. I have also repented and asked their forgiveness. I pray that God would give me the grace and humility to speak my words more carefully.

I think Titus 3:2 is a good guideline for us: slander no one…be peaceable and considerate, and…show true humility toward all men.”

Photo: Unsplash

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