Grow Up: Speaking the Truth in Love, Part 1
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
It's a little dangerous to suggest that one passage of Scripture is more important than another, given the fact that all of Scripture is God's inspired Word. But, I will go ahead and say it anyway. The short phrase, "speaking the truth in love" is, in my opinion, one of the most important phrases in the Bible. I say this, not because it is truer than any other phrase. Rather, "speaking the truth in love" says what we urgently need to hear today, offering both an invaluable word of encouragement and an implicit but pointed warning.
If we're going to understand this phrase and be transformed by it, we need to consider several crucial questions: What does it mean to speak the truth? Who does the speaking? What truth are we to speak? What does it mean to speak the truth in love?
Today, I'll begin with the question "What does it mean to speak the truth?" If you were to look at the original Greek of this verse, you might be surprised to find that the Greek verbs meaning "to speak" do not show up here. Instead, we find the verb aletheuo, which is related to the word aletheia, meaning "truth." An overly literal translation might read, "truthing in love." This has led some commentators to suggest that Paul has in mind both speaking and living the truth when he uses the verb aletheuo. Though there can be no doubt about the need for active living of the truth (as captured by the phrase "in love"), it's likely that aletheuo means "speaking the truth." Unlike those in verse 14 who deceive people with the falsities they utter, we are to speak the truth.
As he writes this, Paul envisions people who are close enough to each other that they can communicate orally. Face-to-face relationship continues to be a primary context for our truth speaking. Yet, this passage surely relates to other forms of verbal communication, such as letter writing, blogging, emailing, Skyping, and texting. Our words, whether spoken or written, whether embodied or digitized, matter. They matter to our fellow Christians. They matter to the church. They matter to our neighbors. They matter to God. With our words we can tell the truth or lie. With our words we can love or hate. With our words we can help our fellow believers to grow or we prolong their infancy.
Today, I am reminded of how my words can make a difference, for good or for evil. I am renewing my commitment to glorify God in everything I say and write, so that my words might contribute to his gracious work.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How aware are you of the power of your words? Do you speak as if your words really mattered? What helps you to speak in a way that honors God and contributes to his mission?
PRAYER: Gracious God, words are so familiar and common. I can easily forget their power and neglect their importance. Yes, I can say things that hurt. But, more often, I speak in ways that are empty and thoughtless. Rather than bringing light, my words can add to the darkness.
Help me, O Lord, to weigh my words wisely. Speak to me and through me, so that I might say what is true, what is honoring to you, and what is edifying to your body. Even this day, help me to take my words seriously, to use them for good and for your glory. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.