Yesterday I wrote about accountability, including speaking the truth in love. There are some people who struggle with that in a specific way. It might be a small group, but the ripple effects of it impacts many of us.
Some people don’t like conflict. When that person is a Christian, who is directed to speak the truth in love, it gets a little dicey. To not speak the truth in love, for a Christian, is shirking a responsibility of faith. It’s difficult to simultaneously avoid conflict and speak truth in love. Of course, there needs to be discernment in speaking the truth in love. We need to know what truth to speak in what situation to what person in God’s timing. But I think sometimes Christians who are hesitant to hold someone accountable or deal with conflict in the church or family situation would say that they do speak truth. They know what the Bible says, so, of course, they speak truth. But speaking the truth by knowing or reciting a Bible verse is not the same as speaking truth into a situation in practical ways.
We can know truth without applying it. We can know truth and stay silent. We can know truth but live in fear that speaking it might distance someone we love or respect. Sometimes that concern is truly empathetic, and we need to listen to those concerns. It might not be the right time, or we might be using our fear of the consequences to excuse our silence. Sometimes only we (and God) can know the truth of our motives. Sometimes our silence is selfish. We know speaking up might create some temporary or long-term discomfort in a relationship that we treasure. We’d rather keep the peace and stay silent even though the long term decay of character and faith will stink far more than the acute discomfort.
We all know people who know Scripture well but will not yield to it. And I’m sad for them. I’m sorry for the ripple effects that damage people close to them. Knowing God’s Word is not the same as living God’s will. God’s Word is alive and active in us. It is not words strung together that we attribute to God but fail to apply in our lives. At least, that’s not what it should become to us.
So, what can you do if you find yourself as someone who wants to live God’s Word out loud but shrink back from conflict?
- Revisit yesterday’s post about accountability. It is a journey, a relationship. Find comfort in the fact that your relationship with someone isn’t defined by a tough conversation. The other person might react strongly, but the encouragement you’ve given and bond you’ve developed will often continue as each of you grow. Healing takes time. Growth takes time.
- Ask yourself what expressing love and compassion to the other person truly involves? Does avoidance and dysfunction, perhaps codependency, take higher priority than speaking the truth in love? One is consistent with God’s character. The other isn’t.
- Evaluate your own faith. Where are you in your relationship with God, and where do you want to be with him? He’s trustworthy. His perspective is eternal. He certainly sacrificed a lot for you and has provided abundantly with and through your life. Be sure your response to him reflects your faith—what it is, and even more so, what it can become.