Question: What is the best way for us Christians to show truth in love to those living an outwardly sinful life that the Bible forbids?

Great question.  When I examined your question I soon realized that the answer is contained in the question.  The best way for us to speak to someone living an outwardly defiant lifestyle is to speak to them with truth and with love. 

A much wiser man than I once explained these two things, truth and love, like the wings of an airplane.  With all love and no truth, the plane will crush and here’s why: when we lack truthful conversation about the sinful lifestyle of others but only offer love and comfort, we merely confirm the sin in a person’s life; with all truth and no love, we will exasperate the sinner and give them no hope of forgiveness through Jesus.
What this comes down to is a delicate balance between the Law which convicts and often condemns and the Gospel, which uplifts and brings comfort.  Let’s take two real-life situations from the Bible and see how Jesus used both truth and love in a person’s life.

Mark 10:17-22 (excerpts) A man ran up to him (Jesus) and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” …You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”  “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Notice what Jesus says to the man who was trying to justify himself on account of keeping the Law.  The text says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  He loved him enough to point out his sin by using the Law and then proceeded to give him a next to impossible route to save himself – selling all that he had and giving it to the poor, with the intent that the man would despair of all good works, and cling to the promises of God’s way of salvation that comes through the cross alone!  But sadly, at least at this point in the man’s life, the man was not willing to humble himself so the text says, “The man’s face fell and he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” 

Let’s look at one other example, one with a happy ending in Jesus’ world. These next verses are selected verses from John 8:3-11.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him… When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her…” At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time…, Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Did Jesus’ truthful words, "You without sin cast the first stone" seem like loving words to those who went away?  Of course not!  He convicted them and because they were unwilling to let go of their pride, they went away.  But Jesus knew the sorrowful woman who had been caught in adultery, and yes, sometimes it takes getting “caught” before our hearts are ready to turn from the sin they've been entangled with in life.  But take notice how Jesus is prepared to get his hands dirty with this woman’s adulterous life – he states, “Neither do I condemn you!” But what if he would have left it at that?  Might he have insinuated that her adulterous relationship was ok?  Perhaps.  That's why he needed to be both loving and truthful with this precious soul, so he adds, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Truth and love were the perfect balance of our Lord’s ministry that always encompassed all that he said to the people he ministered to.  And they are to be the delicate balance in our ministries, too.  Us pastors, as public servants of the Word are to use these tools in all that we teach and preach.  But you have opportunities, too, right in your home and with your brothers and sisters that God has placed before you in this life.  Let us never be shocked by sin, even when it takes place in our own homes, but let us rather be prepared by God's Spirit to deal with it through the same means Christ dealt with sin - through both Law and Gospel.

Jesus is the master and we will always remain his pupils seeking his Spirit’s help and guidance in our administration of these precious means of grace.  This is why we need to keep reviewing his Word for our life, all of us.  Let us never be ashamed to tell the truth for fear of rejection – for who was rejected more than our master?  But let us also never weary of being loving in our speech for the sake of precious souls whom our Savior bought with his precious blood.    

Great question, I pray that our Savior’s words in both texts of Scripture have helped! 


Pastor Matthew P. DeNoyer