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Speaking the Truth in Love

A friend of mind has said from time to time concerning persons in the church with whom she violently disagrees, "Talk? I wouldn't want to be in the same room with that person!"


It can be uncomfortable being near someone whose views are the very opposite of everything one holds dear, or to have to put up with someone who is verbally rude and abusive, or to be seen with someone whose presence might call one’s own character or righteousness or correctness into question.

But isn’t that the way it must be in the church of Jesus Christ, whose life was lived among sinners for whom he died? Since it is Christ’s church, since everyone in it has been called to be a part of it by the work of the Holy Spirit, since the church most definitely exists by God’s choosing and not our own, who are we to decide who is in and who is out? With whom we will speak and with whom we will not?

The body of Christ is a very dynamic, organic creation of God in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. It moves forward and is built up as every part earnestly seeks the truth, as each member speaks the truth in love to the others, as each one called by God exhibits loving truth in his or her life as supremely revealed in the incarnation and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Presbyterian Church is gifted because it has so many earnest Christians and groups who are willing to stand up for their faith and to contend for it in the public arena.

On the other hand, the Presbyterian Church must insist that such groups, which have long been with us — advocating their causes of justice, peace, righteousness, holiness, purity, etc. — make the commitment to continue to speak the truth in love to one another for so long as they shall exist as organized bodies. This means honest, open, dialogue that moves beyond the first exchange of views and probes deeply into the complexities and ambiguities of every situation with which Christians and the church are confronted.

A group that retreats to its own safe space and refuses to talk to the opposition does not deserve to be heard by the church. Only through disciplined, loving, continuing conversation can the truth be found and believed and proclaimed by the church.

Therefore, The Outlook affirms every movement afoot to keep all parts of the church talking with one another. Such talking does not imply that one’s views will or will not change. It does not mean that one view is as good as another. It does not mean that consensus as to the truth will ever be found in some cases. It does not mean that every problem can be solved. But we must hold each other accountable for the truth, for Christ’s sake, and for the world for which he died.

That’s impossible unless we are face to face, speaking the truth, as we understand it, in love.

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