“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us, but it keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information, but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. . . . To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Tim Keller
“It takes two to speak truth – one to speak, and another to hear.” – Henry David Thoreau
True love in friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships will inevitably lead to rebuke at times. And while it should be done gently, humbly, and kindly… it unfortunately doesn’t always come off that way. So when you feel attacked, when you feel blind-sided by accusations that you are less than perfect, does that excuse any and all behavior that may have caused someone to voice concern to simply be null and void, because they failed to communicate their concerns in a way that was perceived as loving and genuine? Do we disregard any concern our friends would have with us if they fail to approach us in the perfect way? Are we to deflect all responsibility if the other family member behaved less than perfect towards us in the past? What if they’re currently acting foolish, yet have the gall to proclaim that you have done something wrong?
Please, don’t tune me out yet.
Do you ever have difficulties in your relationships? Does your significant other, or those close to you do stuff at times that upsets or frustrates you? Do you ever find your expectations less than met, more like almost completely shattered. I’d be willing to bet money everyone has dealt with this at some point. Are you aware and willing to admit that you also have sin in your heart and your flesh desires things above God at times… that in conflicts with your spouse or significant other, when you’re arguing with a friend, neither of you are perfect, or even close to it… and yeah, this tension really sucks sometimes. Dating, courting, and engagement are especially tough at times. Because in that dynamic, you often get most of the problems of marriage, but without all the benefits…
Marriage is difficult too, but at least you’re already in the game, and fully committed at that point, so you might as well play it to win it. And that’s fun. Really hard at times, but a lot of fun. Because you’re a team working towards deeper sanctification in Christ here in this life. You guys aren’t against one another or trying to simply co-exist in the happiest manner. You’re partners in battle, fighting alongside one another in a war. The war has already been won, but there is still a lot of mess to work through, until the day Christ cracks open the skies to let the whole world know He really is who He said He was.
However, even though redemption has already been purchased by Christ, for the time being, you ought to be heart-broken over the sin in each other’s life, not because you get your feelings hurt, you selfishly want each other just to act better, be more attentive to your needs, or just be less embarrassing in public, but rather, you want each other to experience more of Christ in this life. To know Jesus more, to be the person God has created you to be and is working in you to accomplish His will. Your “fights and arguments” shouldn’t be over petty things or personality quirks. The issue at hand is sin. Sin should grieve us and cause us to seek help and repentance in desperation.
False conviction is a reflex reaction caused by self-disgust, a sorrow over the consequences of sin. True conviction is an abiding sorrow over the offence against God, and while not the natural response, it does demonstrate that God has begun a good work that He will complete. True conviction is followed by true repentance. False conviction is followed by counterfeit repentance that only sees and fears the consequences of sin and the pain it causes others. Often this leads to a temporary change in behavior, but without a heart change.
John Owen addressed this when he wrote, “Christians must take severe measures in killing [their] sin. This is the real danger: “Every unclean thought would be adultery if it could… Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” (Colossians 3:1-17)
When we perceive sin in a brother and/or sister’s life that we believe will cause them (and potentially others) great harm over the course of their life, we are to lovingly approach them in humility. All the while, acknowledging we have our own blind spots and our own struggles with sin, but we are for each other’s good, we are for each other’s growth and development in our walks with Jesus. Others’ sin does not negate your sin. Because we struggle doesn’t mean it’s ok for you to struggle and not ever work through grace-enabled efforts to repent. We should all be seeking reconciliation together, because it’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay there.
Becky Pippert put it this way: “Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it… Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference… E. H. Gifford once said, “Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor” … So, if I, a flawed, narcissistic, sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone’s condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but His settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race He loves with His whole being.” God paid the ultimate cost Himself to love us; He passionately loves us, and simultaneously He ferociously hates sin and the sin within us.”
Little sins left unchecked over time grow, and sin begets sin. Ever wake up one day and ask yourself, how did I get here? You better believe that I’ve found myself there… lying in bed full of regret and wondering how the heck I had wandered off so far from where I really wanted to be. We all constantly forget that sin will take us further than we wanted to go, keep us longer than we wanted to stay, and cost us more than we ever wanted to pay.
We need to understand and remember that the cross isn’t a recovery program, the place to improve on what good is already there. It is a place to die. It is not a question of giving up certain sins, but of giving up one’s illusion to rights!
None of us who claim to follow Christ can remain neutral in each other’s fight with sin. We are either for our brother and sister, hurting alongside them, and going to war with them, out of love for them, because Christ first loved and rescued us. Or we lie, deceive ourselves, the Truth is not in us, and we let our brothers and sisters drown while we idly sit by and watch with hateful indifference. Please try to listen to the concerns of others with an eager heart for repentance and deep hunger for the chance of tasting more of God’s love for you. We are all far from perfect, but in Christ, our hearts, our love, our intentions, are for each other. So in the end, when pursuing reconciliation through Christ, we are truly for each other’s good, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Recommended passages of Scripture to consult for further consideration of this topic:
2nd Samuel 7:14-15
Proverbs 13:1; 24
Proverbs 29:17; 19-20
1st Corinthians 5:1-13
1st Corinthians 11:32
1st Timothy 1:18-20
1st Timothy 5:1-2; 19-25
2nd Timothy 4:1-5
2nd Peter 2:1-22