Inevitably, through the years, when we have spoken plainly about certain sins and indicated that any guilty listeners needed to take heed and straighten up their lives or face the terrible consequences of sin, someone would find the need to remind me that we needed to “speak the truth IN LOVE” (Eph 4:15).
What they don’t seem to get is that we are trying to do just that. They don’t understand that the “in love” part refers more to the motive than the manner of speaking. Some situations call for gentleness of speech (Gal 6:1), others call for sharpness of speech (2 Cor 13:10; Ti 1:13; cf. Matt 23), but whether gentle or sharp, it must be in love.
When one needs an exhortation it should be given in love of his spiritual development and soul’s salvation. The same should motivate us to sharply rebuke with needed. Also, the same should motivate a gentle word of encouragement. It is all be done because we love God and love the ones to whom we speak any part of the gospel. Even when speaking to a rebellious brother fails to bring him to repentance and we have to apply the instructions to withdraw from him, we still must do it “in love.”
I would hope that if I should leave the truth either in preaching or practice that someone would have enough love for me to try to wake me up with as much sharpness needed to bring me around.
How much love are we showing one, slipping deeper and deeper into sin, by whispering “sweet nothings” in his ear as he continues his downward spiral? If we love him we are going to try whatever scriptural approach it takes (rebuke or exhortation) to bring him to his senses and help him get on the right track.
Because our audiences are generally made up both of those needing the gentle approach and those who need the sharp approach, we should strive to balance our approaches, but whatever the approach it must be “in love” to please God.
By the way, pointing out a scripture that says that a specific kind of sinner (drunkard, thief, or homosexual) cannot inherit the kingdom of God is not HATE speech but rather LOVE speech, because we want these people to be saved. They cannot be saved while still in their sins. If we hated them, we would leave them alone to die in their sins. Expressing hatred and disgust for these sins does not mean we hate those guilty. We want to get them to the point where it can be said, “such WERE some of you” and not have to be saying, “such ARE some of you” (1 Cor 6:9-11).
– Edward O. Bragwell, Sr