Yesterday morning my pastor spoke on “Practical Christianity” out of the book of James (one of my favorites). He mentioned the fact that a lot of people see James as rough, even harsh, because he doesn’t water down or sugar coat anything. That’s a turn-off, even offensive to a lot of people. But James’ straight-forward “this-is-the-way-it-is-period” approach is one of the things I like so much about him; even though I’m not writing scripture, I want my writing to have the same hard-fact style as James’.
In our culture today, everyone is scared to death of being blunt, worried that they’ll “offend” somebody. So we dull the edges and blur the lines until the truth is so soft and mushy that people begin to find it palatable.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care whether we offend people or not – if offending someone can be avoided, then avoid it by all means! But as Christians it is our duty to tell people the Truth. If telling the truth offends them, it offends them. That does not excuse us from our duty. I would rather know that a person knew the truth and was offended by it than spend my life wondering whether they knew or not.
Gentleness is as critical to our presentation of the truth as anything else – but it’s a hard skill to practice. We have to be straight-forward and honest, like James was, but we must be gentle. One of my favorite quotes from Paul Tripp says “Truth that is not spoken in love ceases to be truth because it has been tainted by other human agendas.”
It is easy to hammer the truth into someone’s skull and trounce on whatever misguided beliefs they hold. But ripping them apart with a prideful “Thus saith the Lord” attitude is as damaging as it is sinful.
Yes, gentleness is essential. But we cannot get so caught up in being gentle that we go beyond “gentle” to “soft and useless”. “If the salt has lost its savor…it is good for nothing”! If we make the truth so soft and “inoffensive” that it doesn’t mean anything any more, it too is “good for nothing”.
So I’m going for James-style writing. Be gentle, but tell the truth. Don’t sugar-coat it. Don’t water it down. Don’t let the salt lose its savor.