I had a cup of coffee today with a man who is a Jehovah’s Witness (JW). We met at a Starbuck’s. Probably not very neutral ground since everybody who works there knows me, but neutral enough even still. He had come to my house a couple of times on a Saturday morning and I told him I would meet with him over a cup of coffee as long as it was just the two of us. He agreed, and so we met today and talked for about an hour and a half.
Normally, I would not have done this but this time my heart went out to this man. After about ten minutes of small talk and getting to know each other, we started talking about doctrine. My biggest argument with a JW is that we do not believe in this same Christ; they believe he is created by God, and I believe He is God, not a god, but The God. Therefore their gospel is a false and different gospel. Now, I could have used candor as a sword and bluntness as a beating club to tell this guy whats what and why our doctrines are not the same to say nothing of their incompatibility but that would not be very Christ-like. If I use truth and neglect to mix it with love, then I am not treating others as Christ has treated me.
This morning, before I went to work, I read a letter John Newton wrote entitled On Candour. If you are not acquainted with Newton, he was the man who wrote Amazing Grace. This is a hymn that brings me to tears every time I begin singing it or listen to it. The letter stayed with me all day and I felt as though it was a grace from God in itself to help set my mind and heart right for talking to this man today. Just before we parted, I told him, “I did not meet with you today so I could talk or debate with a Jehovah’s Witness. I met with you today because I wanted to talk to you.” I may never see or talk to him again, but I thank God for what He has taught me through this. I was able to talk to this man with candor, but the candor as Newton says, is a Christian grace.
“True candour is a Christian grace, and will grow in no soil but a believing heart. It is an eminent and amiable property of that love which beareth, believeth, hopeth, and endureth all things. It forms the most favourable judgment of persons and characters, and puts the kindest construction upon the conduct of others that it possibly can, consistent with the love of truth. It makes due allowances for the infirmities of human nature; will not listen with pleasure to what is said to the disadvantage of any, nor repeat it without a justifiable cause. It will not be confined within the walls of a party, nor restrain the actings of benevolence to those whom it fully approves; but prompts the mind to an imitation of him who is kind to the unthankful and the evil, and has taught us to consider every person we see as our neighbour.
Were there more candour among those who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, the emotions of anger or scorn would not be so often felt or excited, by pronouncing or hearing the words Churchman, or Dissenter,or Calvinist, or even Arminian. Let us, my friend, be candid: let us remember how totally ignorant we ourselves once were; how often we have changed our sentiments in one particular or other, since we first engaged in the search of truth; how often we have been imposed upon by appearances; and to how many different persons and occurrences we have been indebted, under God, for the knowledge which we have already attained. Let us likewise consider what treatment we like to meet with from others; and do unto them as we would they should do unto us. These considerations will make the exercise of candour habitual and easy.”
-John Newton, from a letter On Candour; volume 1 of Works; Banner of Truth Trust, 1988 edition; pages 356-358