If it is indeed true that words have meaning, then why is it that so often you can’t be sure what someone has just said? I support the use of plain talk, not wanting anyone to doubt what I mean when I preach, teach, or write. If we use words that have clear and strong meaning, people will know for sure what we are saying. They may not like it, but they will know where we stand.
The problem is that often such clarity is not welcome in our world today. Our culture is always searching for terms that will weaken true understanding. It is frightening to realize that in the near future we may be required to use compromised words, and perhaps may even be punished by law if we are pointed and transparent in our speech. Speaking the truth, in some cases, is already considered to be hate speech. Our forefathers may have seen this coming when they wrote in stone, “The Freedom of Speech”.
It is one thing for our pagan society to attempt to force on all of us their secular religious views; it is, however, something else altogether when the dumbing-down of words is pressed on us by those who profess faith in Christ. The impression we get is that we are supposed to do everything we can in an effort to be unclear. I have just given you an illustration of this by using “pagan society” and “secular religious.” It takes some concentrating on meaning and content to be able to understand those statements; but then, we are trapped in word games where everything is form, rather than meaning.
The word “murder” has a very clear definition, but we are forbidden to use it; instead, it has been replaced by “abortion”. The word “sodomy” is strong and clear; but it, too, has been replaced by terms considered to be more respectable. We are not allowed to use clear words like “socialism” and “treason.” Polite people evidently are not comfortable with the truth. You may have noted that “offensive” words have been removed from some hymn lyrics so that the sinner is painted in a more sensitive way. This may be why so many sinners don’t think they’re all that bad and why it is that today we have so many unsaved members in our churches.
Preaching that deals with sin is now cast in an unfavorable light. We are being told that it is not polite to talk about such things in public and that people need to be encouraged, not confronted. Offending God has become the rule of the day, and it seems we are supposed to only say nice things about even the most heinous of sins. Even the devil deserves measured speech, they say.
WHAT ABOUT LOVE
It has been argued that the use of clear terms demonstrates a lack of love toward the sinner. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not exhibit love when we leave people to wonder what we mean. We do not express love when we let a lost man go to hell because his horrible condition was not made clear. Fire is a plain, blunt word. It may disturb people. To fail to cry “fire” when a friend’s home is engulfed in flames in the middle of the night, though, is not love. Plain talk does not offend God, but it does disturb those who see man at the center of all things. There is something wrong with the love of man that does not begin with the love of God. The love of God flows from His foundational attribute of holiness. Truth precedes love, but you can’t have one without the other.
YOU MAY OFFEND SOMEONE
We have been lectured by those of a liberal mindset that doctrine is not an expression of love; it is divisive. Of course it is; that is God’s point. Doctrine divides truth from error and heaven from hell. The gospel is offensive to the unbeliever who rejects it. It is so offensive that “new gospels” have become part of the “error of the month” club. The apostle Paul made the offence of the gospel plain: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Plain talk allows people to know exactly where they stand. Strong words lose their power when they are made nice. Compromise has a down side. If we are so pressed to be measured in our speech that we cloud the facts, why bother speaking at all? An editor of one of my books wrote to me, “You certainly have a sharp pen!” I love and respect that man and took that statement as a compliment.
It is argued, however, that you will turn people off and they will not listen to you if you use plain language. It is not my task to convince people; that is the role of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to be cute in my conversation in order to be effective; I do have to be clear and plain. It helps if our plain talk is about ideas, not about persons. For instance, we should refer to liberalism as the ideas and not the liberal people themselves. It also helps to remember that the liberal mind focuses on people, not on ideas or on God. For the liberal system, everything is judged on how people will feel and what they may think.
A WORD OF CAUTION
There is a difference between using words that offend and being offensive, but that has to do with motive. When we preach clearly about hell and judgment, we must not leave the impression that we are glad that people are going there. We can use plain words with love. Hearts that are open to the Spirit of God will sense our sincere grief over their lost state. It is possible to hate sin as God does. It is possible for us to love the lost with the love that God has expressed. There is no conflict in this, which is why we sow the seed and water it with our tears, but it is God who gives the increase.
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D.Min A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care. For those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address, Shepherdstaff2@juno.com
May 21, 2012