For Christians, there are few things that amount to the blessing of truly loving God’s Word. I can recall the moment in my walk with Christ when the flame of hunger and thirst for God’s Word was ignited within me. This was a beautiful gift granted by God. It supplied my ongoing need to be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness that I may be complete and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). Unfortunately, in my eagerness to teach others all that I was learning, I misused this gift. My freshly ignited flame singed every sinner and saint within arm’s reach. It was my newly appointed duty to cut you off in mid-sentence to correct every wrong, interpret every misinterpreted Scripture, and call out all your favorite false teachers. I was going to fix you and your theology!
I find that, like my former self, young Bible scholars are often brutally blunt and loveless in their corrections. We pardon this ill-mannered behavior by disguising our true intent. We masquerade as soul-saving truth defenders when, in reality, we just want to show how much we know. We do so in the same way that people who share the details of another person’s problems under the guise of prayer requests really just want to spread a little gossip.
According to the Bible, we are to hold one another accountable and offer redirection when necessary. In Galatians 2, Paul even opposed Peter for his hypocrisy and conduct that was not in step with the truth of the gospel. It's a good thing to want every believer rightly dividing the word of truth and obeying it. And we should be concerned if we aren’t eager about this. So certainly there is biblical support for what I was doing, but definitely not how I was doing it.
So, then, how should I have been sharing the knowledge I possessed? Learning to examine myself and my responses through the following filters has changed the way I engage with others.
Check your motives.
Do you want to correct people in order to look or sound smart to others? If it makes you happy or prideful to find another Christian in theological folly, you may be the one who needs to evaluate the Word of God more closely. Ask God to cleanse your heart so that your true intent is to see your brother or sister recognize truth. Ultimately, God should receive all the glory for any individual’s enlightenment to His truth.
Pray for them.
When Paul learned that the Colossian church was being infiltrated by false teachers, he had already been praying for them. He and Timothy prayed for them at the point it was relayed that they had come to faith in Christ Jesus. It seems from the Scriptures that he did not wait until they were entrapped by the snares of false gospels, but, rather, he proactively prayed to God on their behalf (Colossians 1:3). When we hear of new brothers and sisters joining the body of Christ, our prayer for their spiritual wisdom should start then and continue thereafter. Paul and Timothy prayed that the Colossian church “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1: 9-11).
Consider that you may be wrong.
As learned as one may be in the things of Christ, we still live in fleshly bodies and are capable of error. Sometimes doing a little research before we make that opposing comment on Facebook can save us a lot of trouble. I’m not saying to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). We should stand firm in the truths of the Bible. But I am saying that we don’t and won’t know everything about the Word of God in this lifetime. There will always be more we can learn.
Be creative in your methods.
Sometimes simply leading a person in the right direction complements the truths we speak. This might mean sending the person encouraging messages from sound teachers or playing a sermon from a trusted source while the person is riding in the car with you. It could be buying the person a book that covers an area of biblical doctrine you know they struggle with. It could be by sharing stories of your own biblical misinterpretations and how God brought you to truth. Ask God to show you ways that will help reach the individual, although one should be careful not to force ideas on others or attempt to orchestrate countless schemes to convince someone of something. Remember, God is all-knowing. His timing and intervention are best.
Speak the truth in love.
“Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”
This passage teaches that every member plays an important role in building up the body of Christ. We must remember that Christ is the head of that body and every action we take in building one another up must be done in love. We cannot use the act of speaking truth as an excuse to demean someone. And we certainly cannot force them into obedience. We must speak the truth in love.
As followers of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit must be operative in all we do. We must employ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I’m partial to the notion that the latter two components are really where we budding young theologians ought to focus. It has been said that graciousness is truth tempered with love; let’s be careful to remember that as we seek to share the truth with others.