Something has been lying heavy upon my heart lately as I've been reading various blogs. Especially today. It is so easy to misconstrue what a person has written. You can't hear the tone of their voice, you don't see the expression on their face, you can't read their body language and often your personal knowledge of and experience with that person is limited.
I also realize that at this moment in my life my heart is probably extremely tender and sensitive to things. In some ways that may be good and yet I also know that can cause one to be a bit hypersensitive as well. With that in mind, I've been pondering how to say what is on my heart without coming across as if I am unjustly criticizing anyone or anything people have said. That is not my intent. Yet, there are some things which I think are important to say.
I've thought about this all day and have come to the conclusion that God's Word, of course, says it best. 1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
These verses serve as a reminder to me that I can have wisdom, knowledge, power, charisma, talent, faith and good works but still not have love. That may seem hard to imagine. We usually equate these things with love, particularly the good works part. Is it possible to do good works and not have love? The scripture seems to indicate that it is entirely possible to do so!
As Christians we must constantly examine ourselves to ensure this does not happen! The Bible is full of examples of what happens when we love the law more than the person. Jesus himself was criticized for healing on the Sabbath. After healing a man, he asked asked this question Jesus made it very clear that while they loved their family (son) and possessions (ox), they did not love their neighbor. Their consciences pricked them so bad, they were unable to answer.
I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with good works. In fact, I believe it is impossible to have love and not do good works. Walking in obedience to God and doing good works are the natural fruits of loving God. Love produces the desire to do good works however doing good works does not necessarily produce love. We can sometimes learn to love as we do good works but that is not always necessarily so. Love, on the other hand, always will produce good works.
We like to make things complicated but it really isn't. There is only really one commandment you have to get right. Jesus outlines this in the above passage. When we begin to follow Christ we have to strive to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. When we get that right, the natural outgrowth will be to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, a whole lot of things suddenly start to fall into place. We don't do things like commit adultery, lie, steal, gossip, hold grudges, become bitter, etc. The list is endless!
I'm not suggesting that this happens overnight. It doesn't. I'm not suggesting that once you do it, you'll never have to be on guard again. Every day, every minute, every moment you have to actively choose to love God.
As I said in the beginning, I am not writing these words to criticize anyone. I am simply trying to gently remind all of us, myself included, to remember that everything we say or do even when giving instruction or discipline needs to be done in love.
I guess I didn't say this very well. I'll try to do a bit better. I didn't mean to imply you should not speak the truth.
[quote]I am simply trying to gently remind all of us, myself included, to remember that everything we say or do even when giving instruction or discipline needs to be done in love.[/quote]
I'll try to give a better example.
Have you ever seen a parent who is simply a disciplinarian versus the parent who disciplines in love? I have, numerous times. I see it with teachers as well. It's interesting.
I think I'll use that example actually because the bond between a teacher and student differs from the parental love (it's more important to the child to try to earn the parent's love rather than the teachers).
I have seen children disciplined or corrected by Teacher A and Teacher B. Teacher A disciplines children simply because they aren't following the rules and she wants to have order in her classroom. Teacher B disciplines children because she desires them to do their best. She wants to create an environment where they can learn. She wants to create an environment where everyone feels safe. She wants them to do well even if she isn't there and to continue to do well in the future. Her motivation to discipline is due to the fact that she cares about her students.
Both Teacher A and Teacher B may use the same method of discipline. They may even use the exact same words. Some children may accept it silently and others will get angry...at first. Then, something interesting happens.
As time passes, the students of Teacher A become resentful. Often they become disrespectful towards her. They might not do it to her face, but they let their peers and often other adults know exactly how they feel about her. If they are obedient, it is usually out of fear rather than desire to please.
Teacher B's students may be upset initially but they end up seeking her out. They don't like this feeling of division. They really do want their teacher to be pleased with them. It's important to them! They apologize, draw her a picture, try to do something nice for her, hug her, etc. Why? Because they understand that Teacher B disciplined them because she cares about them. They are obedient primarily because it is their desire to please their teacher. In education we say the students are now internally motivated and that's what we want behavior to based on rather than fear.
I used to substitute teach when my son was young and for a number of years I taught gifted education. That meant I saw 140 different students a week. I've gotten an earful over the years over which teachers care and which teachers don't. Since I was acquainted with the teachers in question, I have to tell you the kids were dead right.
If you need to speak the truth to someone, I still think it is important that you ask the Holy Spirit to help you do the speaking. That way you can be assured that it will be spoken in love. Is the person always going to accept what you have said? Unfortunately, no. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink it so the saying goes. The person will know, however, deep in their heart that you were motivated by love. They might not think that at the moment. They might not even ever tell you, but they will know. How do I know this is true? I've seen this played out again and again and again.
In response to the first question, yes I believe Jesus, the prophets and the apostles operated in love even when they spoke words that offend some as well as many! I won't elaborate on everyone, but bear in mind that Jeremiah was known as "The Weeping Prophet". He loved his people! He didn't want to see them destroyed. He wanted them to follow God. He didn't seek his own glory. It was very hard for him to bring the messages of God to the people. However, he loved both God and them so much that he would rather suffer than see them destroyed. He knew they would be taken captive. He knew they wouldn't listen but love refused to remain silent!
By all means, speak the truth. You must always speak the truth and often the truth can hurt. Just make sure your motivation for speaking the truth is love!
I hope this clarifies things a bit more.