Speaking truth with grace and love can be hard business. Like it or not, it is a business we should all practice and work to improve our giving and receiving of it.
In chapter 26 of his book The Next Level, Scott Wilson talks about this business between Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10.
“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!””
Mark 10:17-23 ESV
Here’s what Wilson wrote about Jesus’ interactions in this situation:
Jesus didn’t shake his fist at the man, and he didn’t warn him of impending doom if he didn’t repent. He simply spoke the truth with grace and love, and he let the man respond however he chose. Mark tells us the man was “very sad” to hear Jesus’ invitation, and he walked away. To him, money was more important than God’s favor. The man, though, wasn’t the only one who was sad that day. I’m sure Jesus felt sorrow as he watched him walk away.
If you’ve engaged in this business, you can relate to how Jesus possibly felt. When someone hears the truth but rejects it and walks away, the truth teller faces many possible reactions, emotions, and temptations. As Jesus modeled, the truth listener needs to be given the chance to walk away. For many truth tellers, this may be the roughest part of the business. Here are four ways for the truth teller to let the truth listener walk away:
- Be sad for them but refuse to follow them
- Love them but refuse to enable them
- Forgive them if necessary but refuse to receive repeated behaviors
- Receive them if they return but refuse to ignore any relapsing behaviors
You may think of other boundaries to help. That’s good. This business is necessary.
Yes, the listener may choose to walk away. That’s okay. Stay in business.