When Truth Hurts

Paul asked the Galatians, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I told you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).  Sometimes truth hurts!  It requires us to face our faults and change our ways, both of which may be painful.

Error in the Galatian churches left the apostle no choice but to speak bluntly.  Promoters of a false gospel are accursed! (That is, liable to eternal destruction, 1:8-9.)  Those believing that false gospel were fools, as if under a spell (3:1).  Everyone being justified by the Law cut themselves off from Christ and fell from Grace (5:4).  Ouch!  That hurts! But Paul didn’t just routinely use such sharpness, nor should we.  Some people justify being verbally brutal by saying, “I’d rather hurt your feelings than tell you lies.”  In fact, however, those aren’t the only two choices!  Truth can, and usually should, be spoken gently but firmly.  Sometimes, as with the Galatians, extreme circumstances require sacrificing gentleness.  But even then, Paul made his affection clear: “Mu little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (4:19).

Jesus Himself spoke bluntly in some cases, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13 and six additional times).  “Serpents, brood of vipers!  How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?” (23:33).  But again, this was not the norm for our Lord.  The hypocritical Pharisees needed to be jarred to face their sin, but Jesus used a far different approach with sincere seekers, even when they were ignorant and sinful.

Sometimes the doctor has to hurt us to make us well; but most will try to minimize the pain.  Just so, speaking the truth may hurt some people’s feelings.  Let’s be sure it’s the truth that hurts, and not our unnecessarily rough manner.

By Joe Slater


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