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For seven or eight hours each week, balance is an extremely important thing to me. During that time, I am seated on a very narrow seat, and underneath me are two very narrow tires. If I lose my balance, the results could be disastrous, or damaging at the least. The fact is, though, that when I get finished with my bike ride, balance continues to be an essential part of much of the rest of my life. Having already surpassed my threescore years and ten, I am part of that army of senior citizens who are constantly reminded to “beware of falls.” The reason for this is because balance becomes more and more of an issue with advancing age. However, whether you are old or young, balance is essential—not just for walking around and performing other physical tasks, but for how you relate to others, especially those with whom you disagree.

We are living in times that are grievous to endure (2 Tim. 3:1). A culture of death is afoot. The unborn are treated as an unwanted inconvenience that is eliminated with a sickeningly cavalier savagery. Gender confusion has invaded even the lowest school grades. Marriage and the home are having their foundations eroded. Well may we sympathize with the words of Jeremiah: “This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God. . . . Truth has perished” (7:28). Similarly, Isaiah wrote, “Truth has stumbled in the public squares” (59:14). Old but timely words.

Why is there such confusion? Certainly not because there is no such thing as truth, nor because truth is a debatable subject. God has given us the truth in His inspired, infallible Word (Ps. 119:160; John 17:17). His revealed truth is nonnegotiable. It is as unchanging as the God who gave it (Mal. 3:6). And if that were not enough, the Truth became incarnate and walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

How should a Christian who loves God and His righteous standards respond to the sin around us? Some respond with silence, prompted by inattention or unconcern, or perhaps by intimidation. In the battle for the truth, there is no place for a “silent majority.” “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Prov. 24:10).

May God help us to be bold and yet balanced in our defense of the truth.

A second response is passionately vocal. With swords drawn and flashing, they fear not the enemy but too often employ the enemy’s tactics. They one-up the enemy in the vehemence and volume of their words. Unashamedly bellicose, they ruthlessly wage their war in defense of the truth, leaving heaps of corpses in their wake. They seem unconcerned that their words or manner could cancel out the very thing that they are trying to say.

There is a better response than either of the above. It recognizes that sin must be identified and exposed and that failure to do so would give evidence of a lack of love for God’s truth or for the souls of men who are careening headlong to an eternity in hell “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). There must be the combination of a straightforward, unashamed telling of the truth about sin and doing so without causing unnecessary offense or bringing shame on the testimony of Christ. Peter said that we must always be prepared to make a defense of our hope, “yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15–16). Balance is the key, but finding the right balance is not always easy. Horatius Bonar wrote, “Scripture is wonderfully balanced in all its parts; let our study of it be the same, that we may be well-balanced men.” Obviously, serious prayer and Bible study are a must in finding this balance.

One of the most unforgettable pictures in The Pilgrim’s Progress is of Mr. Valiant-for-truth. When he was accosted by three thieves, having made it clear that he would not join them, they “fell to it” for more than three hours. Though he faced great odds, he was convinced that “little or more are nothing to him that has the truth on his side.” He fought till his sword and hand were joined together as one. Thus the enemies were put to flight, but not without the shedding of blood—both theirs and his. Similarly, we must steadfastly hold to the truth, confident that the truth is on our side, and knowing that the truth will finally prevail. J. Gresham Machen, who has been called Mr. Valiant-for-truth par excellence, stated, “Controversy of the right sort is good; for out of such controversy, as Church history and Scripture alike teach, there comes the salvation of souls.”

But someone might say, “Wasn’t Jesus pretty intense when He threw the money changers and merchandisers out of the temple (Matt. 21:1–13; John 2:13–22) and when He unleashed a torrent of woes on the apostate religious leadership (Matt. 23:13–36)?” Undeniably, He was. However, this same Jesus tenderly and compassionately urged sinners to come to Him for life (vv. 37–38). Paul told Titus that he must “rebuke them [the false teachers on Crete] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Later, he instructed Titus “to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (3:2; see also 1 Peter 3:16). God’s truth must be defended in a God-honoring way.

We must be defenders of God’s truth, never shying away from exposing the sins of our times, but we must do so in a way that honors the God of truth and seeks to bring the lost to the knowledge of the truth. May God help us to be bold and yet balanced in our defense of the truth. This is truly loving speech.

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From the February 2020 Issue
Feb 2020 Issue