Is it rude to point out a growth that might be cancer?
Is it judgmental to diagnose a malignant tumor?
Is it mean spirited to suggest that unchecked, the cancer will grow, and grow, and grow?
Is it uncaring to point out that growing cancer will spread and destroy vital organs and ultimately lead to death?
Is it condemning to explain that radical and unpleasant treatment is needed to save someone’s life?
Is it too negative to say that treatment should begin while the problem is still small and manageable?
Of course, to suggest any of this is ridiculous. But in the realm of moral cancer, few of us want a physician to deliver bad news. No one wants to hear that a certain relationship is toxic, that our habits are self destructive, or that our innocent pleasures are growing into addictions, or that our compromises are numbing our conscience.
And yet when pastors and leaders fail to be clear and direct about sin they are engaging in spiritual malpractice.
This happened in the book of Lamentations. After destruction had fallen on the nation of Israel, the prophet Jeremiah offers a post-mortem assessment of one of the factors that led to the death of the patient: “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.” (Emphasis added) (Lam 2:14)
It is never fun to find out you have cancer. But if you have cancer, finding out about it may be the most merciful thing that can happen. It opens the door to hope before it is too late. When God’s law points out the cancer of sin, it is actually a mercy because it points us to the Christ the great physician.