Continuing to think about Sinclair Ferguson’s talk from the 2008 Desiring God National Conference; in particular, about a reference he made that left an impression.
In his message, Ferguson shares four of Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions, a series of seventy commitments he made in pursuit of living a life of godliness. These four, all dealing with the tongue, are as follows:
31. Resolved, Never to say anything at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said anything against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.
34. Resolved, In narrations never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity.
36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it.
70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.
These resolutions, so simply stated, hold such deep wisdom. And they’re integral to Christian character.
James 3:2-3 says that, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well” (emphasis mine).
We all stumble, particularly with our words, and no man but Christ has ever had perfect control over his tongue. But what is the “bit” by which we can guide it?
In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul, after commanding Timothy to not put up with false teachers and silly nonsense that leads people astray, writes, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Elsewhere Paul writes, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:1-2).
Love doesn’t shy away from the truth, ever. We can’t confuse “niceness” for loving. The two aren’t the same thing, at all. Niceness wants to make people feel good all the time, and will do that at the expense of truth.
To not tell the truth to someone is to not love them.
But it also doesn’t mean being a blunt instrument all the time.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” (Eph. 4:15).
To learn to speak the truth in love is to grow in Christlike character.
It’s something I’m trying to do, by God’s grace. I fail more often than not.
“We all stumble in many ways,” wrote James. “And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.”
I’m not a perfect man. You’re not either. Only Jesus is.
But someday, He will make us perfect. So let’s look forward to that day.