Forsaking Methodology

[This article was written by Brandon Trout.]

Teaching the Good News can be a difficult work. A Christian is required to anticipate teaching things that may be difficult, even offensive, to their audience. 2 Timothy 4:2 teaches that our responsibility is to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” [ESV – et seq.]. The writer then continues to caution that many will “turn away from listening to the truth,” seeking out teachers who will “suit their own passions.

Certainly, Christians must be bold; unbending in regards to truth. We know that we cannot water the message down, or else it will lose its power and focus. Also, our method of delivering God’s message should facilitate comprehension. And we understand that we have a great responsibility toward ourselves and those whom we teach (1 Timothy 4:16). When we are confronted with sin and/or false doctrine, the only approved answer is action. And each of us recognizes that we answer to God first; pleasing men must never take precedence (Galatians 1:10).

But all of this you undoubtedly know. The thought that I present to you now is this: sometimes, in our commitment to “preach it like it is,” we can overstep the boundaries God has set before us. In the name of firm teaching, it is easy to go beyond what is appropriate. In order to win arguments and make ourselves look good, it is tempting to ridicule those who oppose us. We can become rude, hurtful, and even abusive. The goal of a firm deliverance of God’s truth does not permit a dismissal of gentleness, love, and respect. Having failed in this many times, I recognize that it is easy to become complacent while speaking to others and perhaps begin to thrive on being offensive. We may even, our Father forbid, start to take pride in our own debating abilities. All of this can undesirably begin to manifest an attitude of self-promotion and (ironically) of disregard for God and his Word.

How is this so? In our efforts to stress certain commands and diligently reprove and rebuke, we may come to ignore other commands. For example: while we cannot neglect the message of 2 Timothy 4, we too cannot dismiss that of Ephesians 4:15 – to speak the truth in love. Our speech is to be “gracious, seasoned with salt,” so that we may know how we ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6). In emulating our King, Christians are to be kind and compassionate, sympathetic and serene, forgiving and forbearing, and utterly devoid of all bitterness, anger, and clamor (Ephesians 4:31-32). Correcting sinners requires gentleness (2 Timothy 2:25); a gentleness our merciful Judge has graciously proliferated upon us (Romans 5:8-9). Indeed, just as our message must be free of erroneous doctrine, our methodology must be full of love, and subsequently – respect. The spirit in which we do something is every bit a part of Christ’s teaching as those more difficult issues that we so often struggle with.

The chorus of a hymn, aptly titled “Teaching the Truth in Love,” reads:

Are we teaching the truth in love? ‘Telling it like it is?’ Are we holding pure motives, showing that we care? Are we teaching the truth in love?

Am I? Are you?

Soli Deo gloria

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