“The school program was starting to grow, but I confess that I struggled with how people might respond to our new initiative. You see, my mission has always been to preach the Gospel, establish local bodies and disciple those who come to know the Lord. Whereas others in the Body of Christ might be called to minister aid and comfort in this life, I knew that the eternal destiny of people was infinitely more important.
I don’t want to suggest that I am hard-hearted and have no concern for human suffering. Since its beginning, Gospel for Asia–supported missionaries have been agents of compassion and were among the first to help victims of catastrophes like the Orissa cyclone in 1999.
As Christians, I believe we must do all we can to alleviate pain and suffering in those around us. This sort of concern for others is a natural fruit of the Gospel. But we must never minister to someone’s physical needs at the expense of preaching Christ.
The Great Commission that Jesus gave literally means we share the Gospel of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ came, died and rose again to bring us salvation. This is fundamentally important…”
(from No Longer a Slumdog, by K.P. Yohannan, pages 88-89)
This is an insightful passage from a book I think we should all read (and one you can request for free from Gospel for Asia). Mr. Yohannan acknowledges the ABSOLUTE IMPORTANCE of preaching the gospel of Christ to people, of telling them the truth. As he says, “we must never minister to someone’s physical needs at the expense of preaching Christ.” I agree.
He goes on to describe a dream that he believes God gave him, and explains how this dream changed his perspective on social justice and compassion. In this dream, he believes that God showed him how “ministry to the children will be the bridge to help them experience the love of Christ” (page 90).
He concludes that “through this ‘bridge of hope,’ children would be given an education and, at the same time, be taught about the Lord. They would experience His love, and their families and communities would also hear that Jesus loves them” (page 91).
I think this demonstrates the point that I am trying to make (please read my article, “What’s Greater: Love or Truth?“). Neither love nor truth is more important than the other: we must have BOTH. K.P. Yohannan realized that showing people love would be a BRIDGE for them to be able to hear the gospel. They would get their physical needs met, while AT THE SAME TIME, hear the truth of the gospel message. It isn’t either/or, it’s both/and.
Perhaps some people who read my articles will think that since I don’t exalt love over truth, I must not think love is all that important. Maybe they think I’m being extreme, radical, hard-hearted, and heretical. Yet, I’m just trying to be logical, objective, and biblical. I think we often get into this touchy-feely, fuzzy-wuzzy way of thinking, where we can’t see how love and truth can coexist in perfect harmony. We see telling the truth as “being judgmental.” We want people to be sensitive to our feelings and to our situation, BEFORE we will allow them to tell us anything “hard to hear.” And certainly, we SHOULD be sensitive to others’ feelings and their situation. But, if we emphasize love over truth, and don’t tell those “hard to hear things,” we might NEVER have a chance. Developing relationships IS important; but, if we always wait to tell those “hard to hear things” until we’ve developed a close relationship, I worry that we might NEVER GET THE CHANCE. We don’t know where the future will lead. They could die tomorrow. We could die tomorrow.
K.P. Yohannan speaks mainly about the truth as related to the gospel message, which I agree is the most important message that people need to hear. But in this post, I am also talking about truth IN GENERAL. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32. When we believe in the truth of the gospel, we are set free from the power of sin, and will live forever free in heaven with God after we die. Yet, I think it is also reasonable to say that “the truth shall make you free” in practical areas of our lives as well, as we submit to God’s truth. Jesus continues in this passage from the book of John: “…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” John 8:34b. When we tell people the truth, like Jesus did (!), we are aiding them in being set free from the bondage of sin in their lives. People NEED for us to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. They might not always listen, but how do we know if maybe a seed of truth has been planted in their hearts, that will start to grow later on, as God continues to work in their lives?
In this post, I highlight the need for truth, and talk less about the need for love, not because one is more important than the other, but mainly because in our day, I have noted an unhealthy imbalance between the two, where love is mostly being emphasized and truth-telling is being demoted to the background. I am trying to correct that imbalance.
“When he [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” John 8: 44b-47
Jesus told…the truth! He Who loves us so much, also tells us the truth. If a person doesn’t want to hear the truth, that is an indication of spiritual darkness in their hearts. But, the truth, if we will accept it, sets us free! How wonderful! How can we NOT tell people the truth, then? Don’t we want to help them be SET FREE?
Certainly, being loving increases our chance that they might listen to the truth. I don’t deny that AT ALL! I am ALL FOR helping other people, providing food for the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes for the naked, etc. These things are SO IMPORTANT! My point is simply this: the truth has to be told by SOMEBODY–are we willing to be BOTH loving AND truthful? Can we put our fears aside (that others will hate us for telling them those “hard to hear things,” that they will never want to speak to us again, that we will be outcasts, that we will be persecuted, etc.), and can we ask the Lord for the wisdom and the COURAGE to be able to “speak the TRUTH in LOVE”? (Ephesians 4:15)
*Note: In the quotations above from the book No Longer a Slumdog, emphasis is mine.