As Christ’s witnesses, we are called to speak the truth in love, that is, to speak God’s Word in love. One of our challenges in doing this comes when we consider that God’s Word is made up of both Law and Gospel. Speaking the Gospel in love seems good and right to us. But speaking the Law in love seems like a contradiction. It certainly doesn’t feel very loving to tell someone that he is sinning and that his sins will lead to God’s judgment and condemnation. Contrary to those feelings, speaking the Law to someone who is quite comfortable in his sin is not only loving, it is the only loving option we have as faithful witnesses of Jesus.
Some very sincere people who want to be active and effective witnesses of Jesus are not at all convinced that we need to speak the Law to people who have embraced their sins. They argue that the Law has no place in our witnessing because it isn’t good news for people. After all, they point out, the word evangelism even means “good news.” They insist that the Law will only turn people away and will end any chance we have of sharing the message of God’s love with them. To them, the bottom line is that we cannot speak the Law in love. In reality, if we can’t share the Law in love then we’re doing it wrong. If we cannot speak the Law in love then, in many cases, we are not speaking the truth in love.
How do we speak the Law in love? In the first place, we speak the Law in love when we share it with people who are not contrite – people who have no sorrow over their sins. Without listening to people and learning how they view the world, what values they hold, and what they know about right and wrong, we don’t know if they are contrite or not. It takes time listening, asking, and building a relationship to understand how a person views his sins. When it is apparent that someone is secure in his sins, we can only speak the truth in love by speaking the Law in love. On the other hand, when someone is contrite – when he is already crushed by the Law – we cannot speak the Law in love. Learning which is the case for a person is an essential part of being a faithful and effective witness.
When it is clear that you must speak the Law to a person, your posture will drive whether or not you are speaking it in love. In other words, consider what pose you are in when you hold the mirror of the Law for people. Are you standing behind the mirror framing the other person’s sins in the mirror and making him the sole focus of the Law? Or are you including yourself in the mirror’s reflective gaze – holding the Law up as you would a cell phone for a “selfie” photo?
As broken and sinful people bringing the message of forgiveness and healing to other broken and sinful people, the “selfie” pose with the mirror of the Law should be natural and comfortable for us. When we assume this posture with the Law people will not see us as judgmental or “holier-than-thou.” Instead, they will see that, just like them, we are exposed as sinners when we stand before the mirror of the Law. Then our discussion about the Law can be framed in love and it can prepare the way for sharing how the Gospel brings us healing and wholeness. And perhaps, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we will have the joy of posing with them for another “selfie” in the light of the Gospel.
Speaking the Law in love is a powerful way for us to engage people as we seek to witness of Jesus.
What’s your pose with the mirror of the Law?
The Every One His Witness evangelism program includes instruction on how to develop a witnessing conversation with a person to understand how to speak the truth – Law and Gospel – in love. More information about Every One His Witness is available on the LCMS web site at https://www.lcms.org/witness-outreach and on the program’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LCMSE1HW/