John Newton on Speaking the Truth for the Sake of Others

Greg quoted this passage from John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace on the podcast today, and I thought it was worth posting here. Sometimes we’re tempted to hold back the truth because we care about others and don’t want them to feel hurt, upset, or uncomfortable; but if your goal truly is to serve the people you care about, that is not the way to do it. Newton says disguising the truth is “an affront to the majesty of God and an act of treachery to men”:

At his first public service in St Mary Woolnoth on Sunday, December 19, 1779, Newton preached on Ephesians 4:15, “speaking the truth in love.” It was one of his most notable sermons as he set out his stall for his parishioners, beginning with an explanation of what he meant by the word “truth”:

The Bible is the grand repository of the truths that it will be the business and the pleasure of my life to set before you. It is the complete system of divine truth to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us either to avoid the displeasure or court the favor of our fellow mortals must be an affront to the majesty of God and an act of treachery to men. My conscience bears me witness that I mean to speak the truth among you.

If disguising the truth is “an act of treachery to men,” then speaking the truth is part of what it means to serve them in love. And since love involves sacrificing something of yourself to serve others, in this case that means the sacrifice you may need to make is the pain you’ll feel when the truth upsets your loved ones. The sacrifice will be easier to make if you remember you’re doing it for their sake, because you love.

Amy K. Hall

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