“when it comes to doctrinal issues, we must wield discernment like a surgeon’s scalpel, carefully incising into a teaching to separate the bad tissue of error from the healthy tissue of truth. But we must be precise in how we go about exercising discernment as well.”
(Reagan Rose – The Master’s Seminary) Christians are called to speak the truth (Eph 4:15). It is no surprise, therefore, that our enemy’s preferred tactic is deception (Rev 12:9). Consequently, because of this war between truth and deception, believers are called to exercise discernment—to be vigilant in dividing truth from error (Acts 17:11; Jude 3).
Tragically, the modern church often neglects this essential duty to contend for the truth. Even worse, professing Christians often scorn attempts at discernment as uncharitable and judgmental, subsequently dismissing it all together. This is one reason why those of us who practice discernment must be vigilant to not embody what the scoffers accuse us of. As we contend for right doctrine, we must take care to adorn it with right attitudes and behavior (Titus 2:10).
But isn’t that the exact opposite of what we see today among self-described discerners? For some Christians, what begins with a healthy interest in discernment can end in an unhealthy addiction to gossip and debate. Many of them manifest a cruelty in how they go about condemning error. There’s an almost giddiness when they get to call someone “false teacher” and a haughty attitude of superiority. These things ought not be so.
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.