"Have I Become Your Enemy?"
Paul once asked his audience, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). It’s a great question. It’s one we would all do well to consider because when someone tells us we are wrong in some way, we often don’t like it, and sometimes we don’t react well. Truth is truth, however, and we need to hear it.
Was Nathan David’s enemy for telling him the truth about his sin with Bathsheba? David had coveted his neighbor’s wife and committed adultery, then utilized deceit, drunkenness and murder in the coverup. He may have known this was all wrong (see Psalm 32:3-4), but he was unrepentant and acting as though nothing had happened. Nathan tactfully confronted him, then denounced his wrong in the plainest of terms, resulting in a much-needed confession (2 Samuel 12:1-15).
David never had a more valuable friend than Nathan. Neither will I, if, when my attitude or conduct is not what God says it should be, someone cares enough and is courageous enough to tell me the truth about myself. Unmasking sin is not “hate speech;” it is love.
Was Paul the Athenians’ enemy for telling them the truth about their false religion? The Athenians, as Paul noted, were very religious people (Acts 17:22), but they were idolaters. They worshiped in ignorance, making numerous wrong suppositions about who God is and how we serve Him. Paul explained how they were wrong, then called on them to repent (vv. 23-31). Some did, some put him off, and others sneered. In other cities Paul was treated far less kindly for preaching the truth.
No matter how religious I am, if I believe what is false, even if I do so ignorantly or sincerely, I need a friend to tell me the truth.
The context of the question in our opening paragraph is Paul warning the Christians at Galatia against false teachers. Those who followed their teaching were “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace” (5:4). Too often, faithful preachers who expose error are accused of being “troublers of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). The truth is, they are faithful friends; it is those who advocate something other than God’s standard who are the troublers of God’s people.
We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and seek to restore in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). Those who do that are not our enemies; they are our greatest friends.