How do we begin a serious conversation with love or defend our beliefs in a kind and gracious manner? In his second sermon on speaking the truth in love, Pastor Kong Hee taught the church practical steps from Jesus’ teachings.
By Sylvia Weku
Love and truth are two sides of the same coin and a Christian must have both. This lay at the core of the message Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church delivered at the online service last weekend (Aug 29-30).
Following from his message the previous week, Pastor Kong delved deeper into the topic, this time providing practical examples of how to speak the truth in love.
Jesus is the best example of one who has both truth and love. Giving the example of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:9), Pastor Kong noted how “Jesus spoke the truth to her packaged in great love.”
Jesus treated the Samaritan woman with dignity, speaking to her in private because He understood that love seeks to protect. He was polite, kind and tactful as He spoke to her. “Eventually, Jesus led her to salvation,” the pastor said. History has it that the woman was later baptized and became a famous evangelist in the Roman Empire.
“Speaking the truth in love, Jesus changed her life,” Pastor Kong said. He went on to give another example where Jesus dealt with a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-12). He did not shame her but reached out in kindness and compassion. Even to the religious leaders who tried constantly to find fault with Him, Jesus spoke the truth in love and compassion. Jesus rebuked them because His heart broke, knowing that sin would eventually destroy them.
This is why truth is important, said Pastor Kong. People get frustrated when they think that the truth is being ignored or denied. In every area of a Christian’s life—be it relationship, friendship, mentorship or even in his daily life—communication is very important because no one can read another person’s mind. When there are doubts and misunderstanding, one must keep his communication line open for discussion, clarification, and sometimes, even debate. But these must all be done with love, or the relationship will break down.
LEARNING FROM JESUS HOW TO SPEAK TRUTH IN LOVE
That leads Pastor Kong to the purpose of a church. Paul explained in Ephesians 4:11-12, that the church is for building up a person’s faith and his understanding in Jesus, so as to grow in Christ-likeness. To achieve that, a person must be anchored in the sound doctrine.
Pastor Kong went on to explain the words “scripture”, “gospel” (with and without a capital G), “theology” and “doctrine”. He said that that while all Christians read from the same Scriptures and gospel, and believe in the same basic truths, each church has its own doctrine, which is a set of beliefs based on that it understands from the Scriptures.
“The context of Ephesians 4 is about uniting in the doctrine, the truth that God has given to His church,” the pastor said. Truth determines the outcome and growth of a person’s life.
“The evidence of our spiritual maturity is not how much we know, but how much we can balance truth and love,” he explained.
Love is objective and observable; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 shows how Jesus demonstrated love. “[These verses] describe exactly how Jesus wants us to speak truth to each other,” the pastor said launching into a comparison of speaking the truth with and without the qualities listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
“Only when we tactfully package our words with love will hearts be open and receptive for the truth to come in,” the pastor elaborated. This is crucial especially when a person is speaking to someone important in his life. “You must make a conscious effort to be as loving as honoring as you can with your words, not because you’re fearful of them, but because you truly appreciate them. You love them, and you don’t want them to be hurt.”
Quoting Proverbs 15:1, Pastor Kong also taught the church to be gracious and kind when defending their beliefs. He voiced his concerns about the overwhelming anger in the world today, and “that if this spirit of the world comes into the church, anger and hatred hijack the house of God, and Christians become loveless and judgmental over wrongdoers who need our forgiveness and prayers the most. Or we become hypercritical and zealous to point out how the theologies of others is shallow or inconsistent.”
Reading 2 Timothy 3:1 and Habakkuk 3:2, Pastor Kong taught that while everyone has the duty to speak up the truth and address their concerns, it should always be done in love.
“Now, two final things we learned from Jesus,” Pastor Kong said. “First of all, have the serious conversation with the person directly and in private.” Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-16 that “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…but if he will not hear, take with you one or two more.”
The point of sharing the truth is always to win people and not arguments, the pastor pointed out. He urged the church to resolve issues in private because love covers and protects.
“Love must determine what truth should be spoken, and what truth is best left unspoken.” When the other person is not ready to hear the truth, one should exercise restraint and remain silent.
Pastor Kong ended the service by praying for the church members to become people who can speak the truth in love.