My brother’s old church actually preached harshly against gays, and the pastor used some unkind epithets. He asked me about it, and this is my response. And even though I have never disobeyed any of these principles in the pulpit, I have here on this blog. Regardless, what can we say about speaking harshly or offensively to others, biblically speaking?
1. Jesus’ offensive and harsh words were almost always directed at the religious hypocrites.
When it came to sinners, he often spoke about sin, but did not call sinners names.
2. God offends the mind to reveal the heart.
While Mike Bickle says that “God offends the mind to reveal the heart,” he doesn’t mean that God does so by insults or derogatory names. He offends the “logical” *mind* with spiritual wisdom.
3. You must hate the sin but love the sinner.
While many people don’t like this aphorism, and find the very thought of judging someone else as a sinner as judgmental and wrong, it is essentially how God treats all of us – he declares us sinners that need a savior, but loves us. It is very clear that all men are sinners, and those who have yet to trust in Christ are still in their sin, hence, we can easily count them as such, and should. Otherwise, we would be playing dumb.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You should preach as if one of those people was present, as if they were your closest friend, or a family member that you cared about, and you were trying to show them Jesus. Conviction of sin through preaching the law is necessary, but it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance, not threats, and not insults. You must put yourself in their shoes and say “if that were me, what would cause me to desire God?”
4. Are we accused by religious people and unbelievers of “loving sinners” or “loving them”?
Jesus was accused of loving sinners, and we ought to be so accused as well. That doesn’t mean agreeing with sin, but it does mean that they should experience positive regard from us for them as human beings, rather than feeling like we despise “their kind.” Their kind is OUR kind, that is, fallen and valuable human beings, sinners loved by God.
5. Just because you are passionate doesn’t mean your approach is correct.
We need to be passionate for the care of their souls, not for finding reasons to tell them we are right and they wrong. It is very easy for us to despise others who are different from us, whose sin we have not personally been captured by. We should treat them as someone who has had to recover from the same errors, the same sickness – with understanding, gentleness, and firm but kind and balanced application of truth. Jesus said be angry, but do not sin. That passage deserves careful study.
6. Paul said that it is possible to have faith to move mountains, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing.
Passion is nothing if you do not have love for your fellow sinner, no matter what his favorite sin is, no matter how hardened he is.
7. We must use stern preaching to reach some because of their hardness.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10), but I submit that it is not the END of wisdom.
Before i explain that, let me add one more scripture paraphrase – the rod of correction is for the back of the fool (Proverbs 26:3), but a wise man receives commands. What these mean is this – when we are hardened to God’s wisdom, he does not discard us. Rather, he gently breaks us. That is what the rod of correction is for – when we are fools, hardened to God’s wisdom, we don’t hear what is being said – instead, we need to experience a little pain to wake us up.
However, God does not want to have to strike us to teach us all the time. That method is for when we are FOOLISH. This principle also applies to the fear of the lord in the above scripture. The *beginning* of wisdom, that is, for the beginner, often the fool, is when they learn the fear of God, the fear of his correction, the rod of his correction. However, once we learn that, God doesn’t want us to be motivated by fear all of the time, but rather, by his goodness.
So, while preaching to fools and other sinners, we should preach about the consequences of sin, which are more than just separation from God in the life to come or God’s anger – people must see how sin affects their lives now – being cut off from their destiny with God, their potential and best possible selves, the love of God, life-giving relationships – we need to preach these consequences. In part, the fear of God is the fear of the *consequences* of sin. This is the wake up call, but not the ongoing motivation for godliness.
But talking down to people, or openly despising them, that is not the type of correction God provides, nor is it the love of God – it shows hardness in our own lives.