To be able to speak the truth in love, one must first be very clear about what truth is and how to demonstrate love. Drawing from the lives of Abraham and Paul and a Netflix documentary, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain taught the basics of navigating speaking the truth in today’s context.
Truth and love are inseparable; being able to speak truth in love is the sign of one’s maturity as a Christian. City Harvest Church has been focusing on this theme since it was introduced by its senior pastor Kong Hee.
In his sermon last weekend (Sep 26-27), Aries Zulkarnain, City Harvest Church’s executive pastor delved into the importance of first becoming a person of both godly truth and love before one can speak truth in love.
Pastor Aries emphasized that communicating the truth in love must come out of a person’s being so that it is authentic and has the power to connect to the hearts of this generation.
“Speaking the truth in love must become part of our nature,” he said, quoting 1 John 4:8 that God was so good at loving people because love is His nature. It is therefore important for one to first understand what truth and love really are.
Pastor Aries built on this point by analyzing two characters in the Bible.
ABRAHAM: SPIRITUAL DEXTERITY
“Speaking the truth in love comes in the form of spiritual dexterity,” the pastor said. When God called Abram out of Ur in Genesis 12: 1-5, the pastor proposed that Abram probably imagined that the Promised Land would be virgin territory that he could shape according to his ideology.
However, Abram was greeted by the shocking discovery that the land was already occupied by Canaanites who had different gods and cultures (Gen 12:6-7). Inheriting the land would require him to live with the Canaanites and to be an influence of godliness amidst a hostile environment. In short, he needed to communicate God’s truths in love to the Canaanites.
Pastor Aries quoted author of Global Dexterity, Andy Molinsky, who defines it as “the ability to successfully adapt your behavior in a foreign culture without losing yourself in the process”.
““Abraham needed to have spiritual dexterity,” explained the pastor, emphasizing the importance of “fitting in without giving in”. He defined spiritual dexterity as the ability to successfully adapt one’s behavior in a worldly culture without losing one’s faith in the process.
“To speak the truth in love, we must have spiritual dexterity. And to do that, we must be grounded in and very clear about God’s truths,” the pastor said. Reading Romans 12:2, he warned against Christians becoming so well-adjusted to their culture that they fit into it without even thinking.
ABRAHAM: BUILD YOUR ALTAR
The first thing Abraham did upon settling in Canaan was to pitch his tent and build his altar (Gen 12:7). In fact, this was a pattern the father of faith established–everywhere Abraham went, he would pitch his tent and build an altar. When it was time to continue on his journey, the tent moved with Abraham but the altar remained. Abraham built a total of four altars to the Lord on his journey from Ur to Canaan.
“This is a good lesson for us,” Pastor Aries noted. “It shows that cultural truths will move but God’s truth is immovable.” With every new place that Abraham went, he was met with a new culture that he had to adapt to. But the values and truth of God in him remained central to his character.
Moreover, the truth is objective; it is not defined by culture. Jesus said that He is the Truth (John 14:6). However, culture dictates the subjective meaning of the truth. In the name of love or popularity, one may tempted to alter the truth.
“Once the truth is altered, it’s no longer truth but preference, or simply your opinion,” the pastor pointed out. Love is meant to support truth, not change it (1 Cor 13:6). Pastor Aries then warned the congregation that if one does not know how to stand on God’s truth, it will push them to take sides based on popularity, feelings, or experience.
Pastor Aries went on to use Netflix’s recent release The Social Dilemma to demonstrate how social media has an agenda to manipulate their audience’s belief systems, thinking, and opinions. According to the former employees of companies such as Google and Twitter who were interviewed in the documentary, much of the information fed to social media audiences is false, because fake news makes more money for the companies.
Thus, it is imperative that Christians avoid replacing the truth of God with information they receive online, because that information is commonly manipulated. “Truth must have an origin and objective,’ the pastor reminded the church. “It comes from Jesus Christ.”
In order to speak the truth in love, he encouraged the church to be grounded in Jesus, to be people of God’s truth, to develop spiritual dexterity, and to adapt to cultural changes without losing themselves in the process.
APOSTLE PAUL: BE A HOLISTIC CHRISTIAN
“Nearly all Christians understand pride, but if you want to test their humility, give them encounters and revelations,” Pastor Aries said paraphrasing a saying about Abraham Lincoln. Because the way one follows up with the revelations he receives reveals what kind of Christian he is.
Pastor Aries then examined three things Paul did after he received a revelation from Jesus regarding the teaching of the gospel of grace to the Gentiles in Galatians 1:11. (Gal 1:13-24).
Firstly, he started using his Roman name “Paul” instead of his Hebrew name “Saul”. While “Saul”, named after King Saul, meant “The Significant One”, Paul meant “The Little One”. “After the encounter, Paul became more humble,” Pastor Aries pointed out.
Secondly, rather than competing with the doctrine taught by the early apostles, Paul sought to complement his newfound doctrine with theirs. In Galatians 2, Paul recorded that he spent 14 years working his way up from the ground, gaining the trust of the apostles and building relationships so that his revelation would be accepted. He wanted to earn their respect and support.
Lastly, Paul demonstrated speaking the truth in love in the form of social justice. In Galatians 2:10, Paul wrote that he was eager to remember the poor just as the apostles requested him to be.
“Speaking the truth in love must not just be a slogan in our church,” urged Pastor Aries. “It must be demonstrated in our culture and society. The best way to do so is to bring social justice everywhere we go, for the good of the community.”
Paul’s life showed Christians that to be able to speak the truth in love, they need to first be holistic Christians who are humble, knowledgeable, who seek peace and unity, and most importantly, who love others with their actions.
In closing, Pastor Aries reminded the church that they must learn from both Abraham and Paul to exercise spiritual dexterity and become holistic Christians.