Love in the Message

    With all the conflict today there are few points that need to be considered more than this very topic: Keeping love within our messages. With social media as big as it is, and blogs like the one you're reading, people's thoughts and opinions buzz over the feed and we get all these thoughts and opinions dumped on us from all directions. Some of these things are good, some of these are bad, However, when controversial things come up, Christians often times become heated. They grow angry and irrational and start spewing words as fast as they can type. This is even a habit in some churches' pulpits. We frequently see pastors, ministers, deacons, and teachers fail to keep discretion in mind and start launching words out with no thought before hand, and deliver their messages with such little tact that it shuts down its message before it can begin. It is for this very reason I'm writing this reminder to you all. I pray that you'll read this and take it to heart.

     Throughout my time in ministry I've been to many churches and have seen many pastors stand before a church. I've heard great messages, I've also heard toxic messages. However, with controversial media on the rise, homosexual marriage being legal, and compromising churches around every corner, Christians have started to grow so frustrated and fearful that they've begun to lash out! (and believe me, I understand your concern) However, we must follow the patterns and words of Jesus Christ first.

Matthew 22:36-40 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

     It's obvious to me that Jesus wants us to love one another. So whenever a Christian lashes out, you're doing the exact opposite of what God tells us to do. If you say "Well, I just tell it the way it is! Telling them the truth is loving! I can't think of any better way to love someone that to tell them the truth!" You're missing the point, and you're missing one of the biggest points of Jesus' message and ministry. Let's read this verse:

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 

     This statement has resonated in my head for a very long time. Truth and grace are key. If all you're doing is spewing "the facts" at someone, with no grace, no love, and no amount of graciousness, only the blunt "truth" all you're doing is clicking the mute button on yourself. People do not respond well when they are getting beat down by someone verbally. It doesn't matter how true or right you may be. Think about it, have you ever had a boss jump down your throat? Breath down your neck? Ministry leader? Maybe a parent or family member? Of course you have, but how did you respond? How did that make you feel? There's a reason the Bible says "provoke not your children to wrath" why? Because you will create rebellion inside them. As it does each person. It turns most people away from the message. Why? Because they can't even see the message behind that wall of arrogant animosity. It does not work.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

     You will never reach your full effectiveness as a Christian if you do not learn how to give the truth with love. This is such a vital truth. I'm not saying I've been perfect concerning this, however, it's something I earnestly and honestly try to do. So should you. Because there are so many Christians out there being toxic. Spouting hateful words and marring the testimony of the Christ they so claim to follow. 

     There are so many examples of this. I've seen pastors lay into church members, I've seen ministry leaders name call political leaders (who are people) and call them "idiots," "morons," and a slew of other words. I've even been cussed out by a pastor and his son due to a theological difference. It's worth noting, this didn't make anyone want to listen to them. It created bitterness in the hearts of these people (including myself.) Now, bitterness is a whole separate topic, but the way you approach topics, whether right or wrong, can create a whole different response. You approach something by speaking the truth through the filter of love, and you will see people respond to you, respect you, and your ministry will flourish because of that. On the flip side, if you start hammering the truth down people's throats, it will do nothing more than damage that person. What does the Bible say? Exhort/encourage each other unto what? Love and good works. Not negativity. Not creative demeaning phrases. Not belittling. Only, love and good works.

An example of someone using the truth to be too harsh and create a diminishing testimony of his church is this video: You're Not Worth 15 Cents

(Watch this video, it'll leave you scratching your head for a few reasons, I promise)

The Bible clearly warns us to be careful with our speech...
James 3:5-6 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.

     We have to be so careful with what and how we speak. For if we don't we'll turn into ranting fools. This is why the church has such a bad name today. Not just because of media. Rebellious young people, or any other excuse. The problem is today, that the church is giving them ammo to supply their fight. That's right, so many Christian's behavior has put us Christians "dead to rights" or "caught red handed" because we've behaved ourselves foolishly and have said/done things that don't reflect Christ. So the world can easily pick us apart. This should never be the case.

     The Bible even tells us when we have a problem with a fellow brother/sister in Christ that we are to go to them privately and speak with them about it (Matthew 18) The Bible also tells us that "iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend" So we are definitely told to correct one another, but we are also told this:

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

"Christians are the only people that shoot their own wounded" - Andrew Fittis

     This statement, spoken by a good friend while teaching Sunday School, still resonates in my mind. Christians have a bad rep in today's society it seems. So many blame the bias media. However, I say we should blame ourselves. For we have equipped them with enough foolish behavior and have openly and arrogantly waved our dirty laundry for all the world to see. This is disturbing to say the least.

     Within the last year, a church that has always been close to me and my family voted in a new pastor. This pastor turned out to be toxic. He spoke harshly and turned the whole place upside down. Eventually the church voted him out, but not before people were hurt and broken by this behavior. From most the events that transpired, do you know what made them so bad? His words. What he said and how he said it. So often we let our own knowledge of the truth of God's word puff us up and instead of living through the Holy Spirit, we live through our flesh. Our pride sets in. Then we feel it's our place to tell everyone how wrong they are. It's not our place. It's God's place. We are His messengers. As it said in Colossians, we have to have our speech seasoned with salt. With grace and fluidity. We must remain blameless before God and man. To keep the testimony of the Christian, church, and God we have to keep this in mind.

"Christianity is either ignorance on fire or knowledge on ice." - Kyle Shearen

     This meaning that when someone is first saved, they don't know anything yet. They know little about theology, doctrine, hermeneutical principles, eisegesis vs exegesis etc. However, they're on fire! They start telling everyone! Excited about their new found peace. Then it seems the ones with the most knowledge start going down a slippery slope. They start letting their knowledge puff up their pride and it goes down hill. I've fallen prey to that myself. There's nothing wrong with being educated on the Bible, in fact, it's encouraged by the Lord. However, I caution you Christian. Your knowledge can be your greatest asset, or your greatest downfall. Seek knowledge, wisdom, and discretion as we are encouraged to do in Proverbs.

     It's clear to me that God's focus has always been truthful love (love and grace). That His message was loving kindness. To bring enlightenment and joy with the truth. But one can never experience such enlightenment if it's being crammed down their throat with condescending, demeaning, harsh, or rude remarks. This is what the Bible says about love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 16:14 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

     Now, the next thing I want to focus on is our greatest example; Jesus Christ. Notice His responses to these situations

Woman Caught in the Act of Adultery

His response to the boisterous accusers:

John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

His response to the adultering woman:

John 8:10-11 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Woman at the Well

The Discussion:

John 4:14-16 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

Her Response:

John 4:17a The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

His Response:
John 4:7b-18 Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

The Conclusion of this Discussion:

John 4:25-29 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”

     Notice that Jesus never spat angry or hateful words at these people caught in their sin. He only approached them with truth sprinkled with grace. This is vital to correct not only those without Christ, but Christians as well. In fact, the only people we see Christ rebuke intensely are the Pharisees. Calling them "A generation of venemous vipers" among many other things. Why? Because they were spiritual leaders claiming the name of Jehovah who were acting like self-righteous fools. It almost seems as if Jesus was not only disappointed in them, but knew that only speaking with shear blunt force would His message wouldn't be heard or understood. This is speculation however. But why? Why would Jesus respond harsher to the Pharisees than the godless sinners? I mean, at least the Pharisees believed in God. Here's why:

Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

     God makes it very clear that we are to be either hot or cold. Hot meaning we are born again believers on fire for God and His work, where cold suggests that we are not believers at all. So we are "cold to Him". But God cannot stand lukewarm Christians! That's someone who claims the name of Christ, yet lives as if he weren't a born again believer. Usually lukewarm Christians blend right into that of a normal crowd and you can't tell the difference between them and someone who is not saved.

     Jesus holds Christians to a higher standard. He expects us to honor Him and His ways every moment of every day. Jesus didn't get angry or agitated with the worldly unbelievers. Why? Because it's the world acting like the world. Sin rules this world and therefore it rules unbelievers. Jesus didn't get mad about this. He understood this. That's why He was "moved with compassion". This is also why He was so hard on those claiming God's name! (like the Pharisees) Because these people were to be the "salt of the earth" but how could they? Especially if they were too busy looking down on everyone around them? Saying distasteful things!? Treating sinners with disdain? They can't be! So Jesus rebuked them harshly, but only after He tried speaking to them with grace.

     This is the reason, in my ow
n ministry, I sometimes appear "harder" on Christians than that of the people of this world. In fact, recently I was told by a minister "Will, you harbor great hatred for God's people and His leaders." No, I do not. I simply hold Christians to a higher standard. This message was in regard to my post on homosexuality. This same individual called this article "apostasy." All because I emphasize grace within our messages. All I want to see are Christians approach the world with wisdom, discretion, truth, mercy and grace. This is the message Jesus emphasized. Never compromise the truth, turning it into a wishy washy mess, but never make the truth a harsh message that leaves people broken either. Learn the balance. Jesus had the perfect balance. One thing Christians today need to remember is truthful love. For our churches will never grow, our nation will never turn around, we'll never see revival, and the Great Commission will never be fulfilled if this great truth is not learned and applied.

     For even Jesus, as He stood before the people innocent and betrayed, never lashed out. Never insulted the sinners of the world. He simply remained silent. Humbled Himself unto torture and death. I urge you Christian, to humble yourself likewise and find the balance between truth and love. For if you don't, we as Christians will make little headway against the tsunami of sin that our world has become. Worse yet, we won't see nearly as many souls come to Christ. Meaning many more souls will go to hell.

     Love your brother, love the people of this world. No matter who it is. Don't compromise this command of God so you can have a moment of pride. Don't compromise your ministry for the sake of an ego. This is foolish. Instead, do as Jesus did and look upon the multitudes with compassion as sheep having no shepherd.

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

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