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When Love Means Saying Hard Things

When Love Means Saying Hard Things


When Love Means Saying Hard Things

Can a preacher tell his hearers in a nice way they are sinners? If he can, I’ve still to find it. There is no justification for saying it self-righteously. The preacher is as truly a sinner as those he is addressing and it becomes him to speak with humility. Nor ought the tone to be a harsh one. Christian ministers are ambassadors of the God who lovingly gave his Son to save us and should exhibit that love in the way that they speak. When all is said and done, however, there is really no nice way to say to someone, “You are a sinner”.

For what is a ‘sinner’? The kind of person who ends up in jail? Or who manages to stay out of jail but still violates every moral standard in the book? Certainly – but by no means exclusively. And that’s where the ‘impossible to sound nice’ bit comes in. For as a servant of Jesus I have to say to you that you are a sinner – yes you. Good husband, kind father, devoted mother, thoughtful neighbour, faithful friend, and loyal citizen as you are, you are a sinner.

For what is a ‘sinner’? We can only answer that question in relation to the God who made us and the law he has given us to live by. In an old and time-honoured catechism, sin is defined as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God”. And we are all guilty of such sin – far more so than we imagine. God examines our relations with our fellow humans and declares that they do not pass muster. He tells us that our relationship with him is in worse shape still. We are guilty of resisting him, defying him, ignoring him, forgetting him, refusing to give him first place in our lives, and, if not of denying outright that he even exists, treating him as if he didn’t. Not sounding very nice, am I?

I hear the word ‘hate’ being bandied about a great deal these days. Apparently I am guilty of it when I say (as, on the authority of God’s Word, I do say) that homosexual activity is sinful and that marriage ought only to be between a man and a woman. It is all part of the impossibility of sounding nice when having to say hard things.

It is not, however, unloving to say them, and that is the point I want to emphasise as I close. Your doctor is not being unloving when he tells you you are gravely ill, is he? No more is the Christian who says to you you are a sinner. He or she is only telling you a truth you desperately need to hear. Sin will be your eternal ruin if you do not repent of it. What more loving than to be warned of that? And to be assured of the full forgiveness of Jesus when you turn from your sin to him?

David Campbell Elder Grace Baptist ChurchDavid Campbell
Grace Baptist Church
777 W North Street
Carlisle, PA 17013