Turbulent times call for bold Christians. In days like these the church of God needs people who, like the men of Issachar, understand the times and are willing to confidently speak the truth (1 Chron. 12:32). Unfortunately, it’s easy to go wrong with the call to discernment.
The Christian corners of the internet are filled with discernment warriors, searching (often with detectible traces of giddiness) for the next false teacher or “Big Eva” sell-out. In the name of routing out falsehood, these self-appointed lions of truth turn their fangs on struggling and confused brothers and sisters in the faith, dragging them before the social media pack as outsiders to be devoured. Somewhere in this fight, the healthy practice of discernment has morphed into something more like malevolence.
But there is a ditch on the other side of the road as well. Many in the modern church disregard discernment altogether. For them, Jude’s appeal to “earnestly contend for the faith” falls on deaf ears (Jude 1:3). Worse even than ignoring this command, some professing Christians write off the practice of discernment as inherently uncharitable and judgmental.
But when it comes to discernment, we must take care not to fall into either of these errors. True discernment from the church, now more than ever, is sorely needed—the kind of truth-speaking that is done with boldness and with tears and pleading.
Truth is to be the message of all believers (Eph. 4:15). Should we be surprised then that the enemy’s main tactic is deception (Rev. 12:9)? Believers are in a war over truth, that much is clear. Consequently, believers must exercise discernment, but in a way that “adorn[s] the doctrine of God our savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10).
We must wield discernment like a surgeon’s scalpel. We are called to speak the truth, yes. But we are called to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). That does not mean speaking less truth. But it should be a heart check for us in how we speak the truth. How sad it would be if, in our attempts to be discerning, that ever-clever Devil twisted our love for truth into a love of gossip and contempt for others. What if he succeeded in tempting us to err in our walk even as we were seeking to reject error in our doctrine?
If we are to practice discernment in love, we must discern with precision, humility, and sorrow—not to temper the truth, but rather that we might bolster the truth with our love that we might more honor Christ and persuade the erring.