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Q Isn’t telling people they are sinners in need of repentance an act of love? We need to speak the truth, not shirk the truth, in love (Eph. 4:15a).

A Before pointing out other people’s sins we need to first consider our own sins, lest we succumb to hypocrisy. Then we need to consider our motivations for doing so, and how, when, and with whom. Anonymously over the Internet, for instance, is not the right time and place.

What does it mean to speak the truth in love? If we take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as the apostle Paul’s definition of love, then we can expand it this way: speak the truth patiently, kindly, and without ill will, such as envy, pride, or boastfulness. Do not speak rudely, out of self-interest, out of anger, or out of keeping score. Speak the truth by focusing on the truth, not by delighting in people’s misery or bringing evil on them. Speak the truth to protect, to encourage trust, to give hope, and to help people persevere.

Consider also with whom and when. Jesus, for example, dealt very differently with the rabbi Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman (John 3 and 4). He was more blunt and direct with Nicodemus. But Jesus only gently pointed out the woman’s sin after she brought up the subject herself. If Jesus communicated differently with people in different stations of life, we would be wise to emulate that.

Love for others, therefore, should shape why, when, and how we speak unpleasant truths. Ultimately, our goal is to help all grow into Christ-likeness (Eph. 4:15b).

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