In the February edition of the Ensign, there is an article by one of the LDS apostles, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, entitled “Balancing Truth and Tolerance”. This is a very pertinent topic since tolerance has become the main marching order for much of society.
One thing that struck me as I read his article was the following statement. He’s talking about how we are to react to the sins of those people we know. In that context he writes: “In this sensitive matter we should first consider whether – or the extent to which – we should communicate to our associates what we know to be true about their behavior. In most cases this decision can depend on how directly we are personally affected by it.”
Then a paragraph later he expands on this. “Cohabitation we know to be a serious sin, in which Latter-day Saints must not engage. When practiced by those around us, it can be private behavior or something we are asked to condone, sponsor, or facilitate. In the balance between truth and tolerance, tolerance can be dominant where the behavior does not involve us personally. But if the cohabitation does involve us personally, we should be governed by our duty to truth. For example, it is one thing to ignore serious sins when they are private; it is quite another thing to be asked to sponsor or implicitly endorse them, such as by housing them in our own homes.”
Do you see why I did a double-take when I read this? Did you notice how self-centered that advice is? Where is the love and concern for the persons committing the sin? As Elder Oaks said in the first paragraph I quoted: “In most cases this decision can depend on how directly we are personally affected by it.” The most important thing to him is not speaking the truth to the other person. The most important thing is that I’m not affected by it.
That’s not, however, the tack the prophet Nathan took with King David when David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan was not personally affected by that sin, but he still denounced it to David – an act that brought David to repentance. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 contains the general command to “warn them that are unruly”. Ephesians 5:11 simply says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Throughout the Bible we see people not tolerating sin, even if it didn’t personally affect them, but exposing sin.
I realize that this is often difficult to do, one on one, with a person we know. But that is the loving thing to do! If we don’t do that, then they will see no need for a Savior. But if they see their sin, as King David saw his when Nathan exposed it to him, we can joyfully tell them about Jesus and how he has already paid for that sin. We can have the great honor of announcing to them that, on the basis of Jesus’ death, God forgives them for that and all sin. And then we will have the joy, if they believe us, to see them turning their lives around, not out of fear of being rejected by God, but out of joy of being counted already worthy by him – through the bestowed worthiness of Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is the loving thing to do.