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Speaking the Truth in Love: the Intersection of Compassion and Boldness

The second Republican presidential debate is set for tonight. Many will be watching the way Donald Trump relates to Carly Fiorina after he was widely criticized for remarks he made about her last week. According to Time, the other candidates are deciding whether to confront Trump. Will they court conflict, or will they avoid it to focus on their own policy proposals? Their decisions may determine the outcome of the debate.


Meanwhile, Pope Francis told a radio interviewer that he has never had as many "friends" as he does now, though he has met many of them only once. Francis: "I have felt used by people who presented themselves as my friends and whom I hadn't seen more than once or twice in my life. They have used that to their own benefit." The pope also condemned humanity's "abuse of creation," and said of religious fundamentalists, "Their mission is to destroy in the name of an idea, not a reality . . . They kill, attack, destroy, malign in the name of an ideological god." 


Despite his well-deserved reputation for compassion, Francis is clearly willing to confront those with whom he disagrees.


When David was fleeing from King Saul, he sought help from a priest named Ahimelech. However, he did not tell the priest that Saul was pursuing him. Nor did he confront a man named Doeg the Edomite, though he later admitted, "I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul" (1 Samuel 22:22). As a result, Doeg killed Ahimelech and 85 priests as well as the inhabitants of the town where they lived. David's decision to avoid conflict led to much worse conflict.


The prophets consistently condemned the sins of their culture. Jesus threw moneychangers from the temple and exposed the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. Paul confronted those who demanded that Gentile converts to Christianity be circumcised, using language so stern I won't repeat it here (see Galatians 5:11-12). One day we will each stand before God, where he will "test what sort of work each one has done," and we will receive or lose eternal reward as a result (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).


God is not conflict avoidant. At the same time, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). We can conclude that love and conflict are not necessarily in conflict. In fact, the most loving thing we can sometimes do is to speak the truth as boldly and plainly as possible.




First: Be compassionate. In response to the sins of our nation, God calls us to "sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it" (Ezekiel 9:4). 


Second: Stay close to God. The psalmist noted, "Blessed are the people . . . who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face" (Psalm 89:15). Walk with Jesus so that people see his character in yours. 


Third: Say what God says to you. Make the prophet's pledge yours: "As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak" (2 Chronicles 18:13). 


Fourth: Trust God to use your words to change your world. Human words cannot transform human hearts, but God's word "shall accomplish that which I purpose" (Isaiah 55:11).


It's been said that "the worst crime of the desert is knowing where the water is and not telling." If we're living in a moral desert, what is our greatest privilege?



Publication date: September 16, 2015


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