The temptation to keep silent about important matters that I’m convinced are true to avoid offending or losing a friend is real. I’m not talking about matters which are of secondary importance to a person. I’m referring to topics of first importance, like those that concern one’s soul.
As a pastor, you should have a desire to be friends with people and be kind to them. But, If you choose to remain silent about something that concerns a person’s soul simply for fear of losing their friendship, or even their church membership, would be shameful. However, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it still causes conflict in me every time. That’s why when I read the following in a message by Charles H. Spurgeon while he was about to discuss a difficult topic with his church, God used it to encourage me:
…if I should provoke some hostility—if I should through speaking what I believe to be the truth lose the friendship of some and stir up the enmity of more, I cannot help it. The burden of the Lord is upon me, and I must deliver my soul. I have been loath enough to undertake the work, but I am forced to it by an awful and overwhelming sense of solemn duty. As I am soon to appear before my Master’s bar, I will this day, if ever in my life, bear my testimony for truth, and run all risks. I am content to be cast out as evil if it must be so, but I cannot, I dare not, hold my peace. The Lord knoweth I have nothing in my heart but the purest love to the souls of those whom I feel imperatively called to rebuke sternly in the Lord’s name. Among my hearers and readers, a considerable number will censure if not condemn me, but I cannot help it. If I forfeit your love for truth’s sake I am grieved for you, but I cannot, I dare not, do otherwise. It is as much as my soul is worth to hold my peace any longer, and whether you approve or not I must speak out. Did I ever court your approbation? It is sweet to everyone to be applauded; but if for the sake of the comforts of respectability and the smiles of men any Christian minister shall keep back a part of his testimony, his Master at the last shall require it at his hands. This day, standing in the immediate presence of God, I shall speak honestly what I feel, as the Holy Spirit shall enable me; and I shall leave the matter with you to judge concerning it, as you will answer for that judgment at the last great day. (From a sermon delivered on Sunday, June 5th, 1864, by C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.)
As a pastor, I don’tt regret that I love people, and appreciate their friendship. And I don’t regret the dread of seeing a person leave our church. But I’m not mistaken to think love equals the absence of offense. Sometimes the most loving actions are offensive, even when you don’t intend for them to be.
This is consistent with the gospel too. You can’t receive the “good news” that Jesus was punished for your sins unless you acknowledge the offense that you are not a good person, but a sinner. Jesus didn’t die for good people. He died for sinners. If you REALLY believed the gospel, that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and therefore will eventually die and enter hell (Hebrews 9:27-28), the most loving thing you’d do is share this offensive message with your friends so that they might believe and be saved.
But more than this, the price pastors pay when they experience the pain of losing friends who leave the church doesn’t compare to the consequences that exist if they seek please men above God. Besides, it’s never real friendship to hide truth to keep friends.