As a pastor, you are going to have to deliver the hard word from time to time. You will have to address touchy subjects, both corporately and privately. It is very instructive to see how the apostle Paul approached the hard word.
In Romans 9, Paul is getting ready to address one of the most sensitive subjects of his day. The Jews felt they were “in” with God just because they were Jews, and the Gentiles were “out” with God just because they weren’t Jews. Paul is going to have to deliver the word that both Jews and Gentiles can be accepted by God because of what Jesus did on the Cross.
So notice how he begins:
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
1. I speak the truth in Christ. It wasn’t his opinion, but the word from God. I must settle this matter before delivering the hard word. Far too often we can put our preferences on par with God’s Word. I cannot do this!
2. My conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. Before I speak a hard word that people may not like to hear, I need to make sure my conscience is right before the Holy Spirit. He alone confirms His Word. The reaction of the audience, however, may or may not confirm what God says.
3. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. It should be a major red flag if I looked forward to delivering a painful/challenging/correcting word. I need to put myself in their place, not try to put someone else in their place!
My job as a pastor is not to condemn, nor even to convict; the Holy Spirit will do that. My job is to (a) hear God’s truth, (b) get my conscience right with the Spirit, and (c) empathize with people as I lovingly speak the truth to them.