The Cruelty of Tenderness

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Sin Not Taken Seriously

We live in an era within the gatherings of the church where, for a large part, sin is not being taken seriously. In fact, many are teaching a gospel message which is intended to ease the human conscience and to pacify the sinner in his sin rather than to free him from his bondage to sin.

Many are teaching a gospel message which tells the sinner that all he must do is “believe” in Jesus Christ and his sins are forgiven, and that he now has heaven guaranteed as his eternal destiny, no matter how he lives his life from that moment forward. But “believe” is not defined.

Many church leaders are telling their people, “Stay in your own lane,” and “Don’t confront people in their sin.” For, they are marketing the church to the world and so they don’t want to do anything to offend the people of the world, for they want them to keep coming back to their gatherings.

But Proverbs 27:5-6 NIV says this:

“Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

This is basically what Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in the quote above. For, we can be too “nice” to people to the point to where we will not talk about sin or repentance or judgment or obedience to Christ, and to where we will just let them flounder in their sins with no hope of deliverance.

People call this being “nice” or “polite,” but when we ignore people’s habitual and deliberate sins, and we say nothing because we don’t want to offend them, or we don’t want to “hurt their feelings,” who are we really thinking about? Ourselves! We are more concerned with them liking us than we are with whether they are set free from their bondage to sin.

And this is what this cheap grace gospel does, for it makes no demands for repentance, obedience to Christ, or submission to Christ as Lord (master). And it gives the false hope of eternal life with God based on a profession of faith in Jesus Christ where no true change of heart ever took place.

And then it tells them that their sins are forgiven and heaven is guaranteed them, so it doesn’t matter how much they sin. And it tells them that if they begin to feel guilty about sinning that they should just claim “who they are in Christ.” But they may not even be “in Christ.”

For, the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches death to sin and living to righteousness as required for deliverance from slavery to sin and for eternal life with God. For, it says that we are slaves of the one we obey, and if it be sin, it will end in death, but if obedience, it leads to righteousness.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; Eph 4:17-24; Tit 2:11-14; 1 Jn 2:3-6; Rom 12:1-2; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 2 Co 5:10]

Therefore, It is Loving

Therefore, it is loving to speak to others about their slavery to sin, and to call them to repentance and to obedient faith in Jesus Christ. As well, it is loving and compassionate to confront another Christian with his/her habitual and deliberate sins against God, and against others, and to call him/her back from the path of sin. For, if we live in sin, we will die in our sins.

So, let’s remember what the Scriptures teach on this subject:

“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” (Gal 6:1).

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:19-20).

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (1 Co 5:1-2).

“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 1:21-23).

But so many people have this idea that it is unloving and unkind to speak to others about their sin and to call them to repentance. And they have this idea of love that it just means doing for others or to others what will make them feel good about themselves and us, too.

But Bonhoeffer is right. A gospel which teaches compassion to the exclusion of teaching on sin, judgment, repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ, is not loving at all. It is the most cruel for it leaves its adherents still bound in their sin while holding on to a false hope of salvation from sin.

And if we are more concerned with people liking us than we are concerned about them being consigned to their sin for eternity, and so we say nothing, or so we say only what tickles itching ears and makes people feel good, then that is cruel, indeed. And it is totally selfish on our part.

So, we need to be those who speak the truth in love, both to those who make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ and to those who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior. But we need to do so in the power and strength and compassion of the Holy Spirit, and never in our own flesh.

Thus, please know this: If you sow to please the flesh, from the flesh you will reap destruction. But if you sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit you will reap eternal life (Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10).

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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