Recently, I have had two thoughts swirling around in my head. That’s two more than usual, folks, pat this girl on the back.
The first is concerning this verse,
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 2-3)
In that verse there is a word that makes me pause for an instant, each time I read it. The word is keep. We are told to keep the unity, we are not told to create or manufacture church unity. We are commanded to make every effort to keep the unity that God produced through the reconciling death of Christ. Sadly there are times when truth is brushed aside for the sake of creating unity. If truth is not comfortable residing in the midst of any group of believers, the very Spirit of truth is not present.
The truth is of the utmost importance but it must be the Spirit’s truth not just another Christian’s truth, or maybe I should say, opinion of the truth.
This brings me to my second swirling thought.
Truth being of the utmost importance, how is it best delivered? Are all Christians supposed to be running around telling people what we see wrong in others’ walks? Should we be more concerned with throwing hard truth in people’s faces than anything else?
Twice in my life I have found it necessary to call another Christian on the carpet for their actions. I prayed incessantly before I spoke to each of them. I believed I was called by God to be the one to speak the truth. I deeply wished that God would choose someone else and release me from the burden. I spoke as kindly as possible. It hurt me to speak the truth. I believed I was speaking the truth in love, yet both relationships ended, badly.
I assumed that the reason for this lay in the refusal of each of the women to accept the hard truth about themselves. While this was most likely a factor I think something else contributed to the problem. Recently while reading in 2 Corinthians 7, the Spirit of God pierced my heart with a truth that I had never perceived before.
Besides living out the truth, which in and of itself is an extremely important way of teaching truth, Paul does a lot of truth speaking and rebuking throughout the New Testament. No church receives more of his attention in this manner than the Corinthian church. He speaks truth boldly to them and orders tough action regarding the sin amongst them.
And in 2 Corinthians 7:2-3 Paul makes clear his feelings for these brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.”
Can’t you almost picture Paul crying as he penned these words? Having to wipe tears off the parchment?
The depth of his love for them was incredible and I believe the very key to the effectiveness of his rebukes. After I read this I made a note in my Bible, it says, “To rebuke someone we should already have this heart for them, this love. If not, then let someone who loves them rebuke them or ask the Lord to fill your heart with love for them first.”
I’ve determined to never again rebuke another Christian without having a heart filled with we-would-live-or-die-with-you love for them first. I believe it makes all the difference.