As Christians, we are told to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). What if that means causing someone grief or personal discomfort? Should we say nothing to ‘keep the peace’? No! The well-being of a person, even to the extent of their salvation, is far more important than the present comfort level of our relationship with them. Jesus said He came to bring a sword (Mt 10:34). He came to separate those who would desire truth and righteousness from those who would choose to live independent of God, not trusting and obeying Christ. Jesus didn’t want us to rest in a false sense of security, but to experience true peace through knowing the truth. He beautifully and courageously demonstrated ‘tough love’ throughout His life.
It’s hard to confront those around us, especially those close to our hearts. However if we love them, we will. Healthy relationships are built on truth, not lies and secrets. However does that give us warrant to go in guns blazing? No! We must remember two things as mentioned by Paul. Firstly we must look at ourselves first. We must be right with God, walking close with Him. God cannot use us if we don’t submit ourselves to Him first. We will end up confronting people with selfish, insincere and impure motives. We must be honest with ourselves and with God concerning our thoughts and emotions, ensuring that our motives glorify Him. Secondly we must do it humbly and gently (2 Tim2:24-26). We must be sensitive to where others are at with God. Jesus always met people where they were in their relationship with God (See differences to Jesus’ approach to Nicodemus in John 3:1-15, and the woman at the well in John 4:1-35 based on their knowledge of God). There’s no point feeding someone bread, when they need to drink milk. We must do it out of love, not thinking of ourselves as better. We are all sinful and fall short of God’s standards, and all we know of God is by His grace alone. So let’s not forget where we have travelled from and be understanding, compassionate and gracious in how we address others.
In saying all that, I can guarantee you that no matter how godly your intentions are and how humbly and gently you try to lead someone to the truth, you will get those who become defensive and choose to ignore you. Don’t worry. We must be patient and trust in God with what we have said to them. Salt when applied to a wound will hurt before it can be healed.
It takes a lot of courage and wisdom to apply tough love. It also takes much grace and humility to receive it. However having an attitude of self-growth and a willingness to learn is a sign of wisdom and maturity, no matter who you are or where you are at in your faith. If we take the step of faith to practice tough love, with pure and godly intentions, expect God to work in powerful ways.
6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.