I don’t know what your first thought was when you saw the title to this post, but my emphasis is going to be on two small, but very powerful words: in love.
We live in a world where people are willing, and often way too eager, to give their opinions on things. Gone are the days when people would weigh their words and find a way to be gracious toward others (at least to their face).
Although there is a need for honesty in a time where it’s near impossible to know who to trust, many forget that, if they don’t have love, they are merely a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13). If something needs to be said, there is a way to say it, and that way is with grace and humility.
One could argue that Jesus was not always graceful when He confronted sin, but I don’t feel like this gives us the right to get in people’s face, tear them down, call them names, etc. Jesus taught His disciples to love each other and to think of others as better than themselves. If you truly believe that the person you are confronting is better than you, you will consider your words carefully before you say them.
People are more likely to receive a rebuke if they know you love them and truly care about them. If you are more concerned with being right than you are about the other person being right with God, then hold your tongue and do not attempt to address the issue. More often than not, you will just make things worse, and they may harden their heart even further and never repent.
I see this in doctrinal debate too. I love being around people who are strong in their faith and know what they believe, but some have a hard time having strong beliefs without condemning those who have different beliefs. Within the Church, there are different callings, gifts, and, yes, even doctrines. Just because someone believes differently than you do does not mean they do not love Jesus. If you are a true Believer, you are most likely at a different place in your spiritual walk than you were ten years ago. We should all be constantly learning and growing, so learn to bear with those who are at a different place than you are.
In John 17:21, Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as He and the Father are one, but that unity will not come by fighting each other. You are responsible to study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15) and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15), but there is a way to do those things, and the answer is lovingly.
I leave you with these words from the apostle Paul: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). That is my prayer for all of us. Don’t let the enemy use you to bring strife and division among God’s people. Instead, encourage each other to love and good works and, if rebuke is necessary, ask God to help you to do it in love.