Grow Up: Speaking the Truth in Love, Part 2
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.
In yesterday's reflection, we considered the implications of the verb "speaking." We were reminded of the fact that our words matter to our fellow Christians, to the church, to our neighbors, and to God.
Today, I want to focus once more on the word "speaking." I'd like us to think about something that is so obvious it can easily be missed. Yet, I believe, it is essential if we are to "speak the truth in love" as ministers of Jesus Christ, so that we might grow up as individuals and as the body of Christ together.
Here is the obvious point I want to make: The subject of "speaking the truth" is "we." We know this because, in the Greek original, "speaking" is plural, in agreement with the main verb "we will grow." The "we" to whom Paul refers would be, first of all, those who receive the letter we call Ephesians, along with Paul himself. Yet, by implication, "we" includes all Christians, all members of Christ's body, all of those who have received God's grace in Christ through faith.
To put it simply: Who does the speaking that helps the body of Christ to grow up according to Ephesians 4:15? We do.
You may wonder why I believe that this obvious grammatical fact is so essential. It matters so much, in my opinion, because so much of the church doesn't believe it or practice it. We have assigned the business of speaking the truth to the professionals, to the clergy, to pastors, priests, and preachers. Now, to be sure, pastors and teachers are to speak the truth. This is the main way they equip God's people for their ministry (see 4:11-12). But the privilege and responsibility of speaking the truth belongs, not just to the clergy, but to all of God's people, to clergy and laity.
The founder of Laity Lodge and The High Calling, Howard E. Butt, Jr., has devoted much of his life to this core truth. Years ago, he observed that one of the major reasons the church was not growing was that its true ministers—the people of God—were not speaking and living the truth. The clergy had cornered the market on truth speaking in the church and the laity was happy to pay for this service. But Howard saw that this model of church did not match the vision of Scripture, including Ephesians 4. So he began spreading the message of "the ministry of the laity," founding Laity Lodge and The High Calling as anchors of this good news.
Today, the truth that all of God's people are to speak the truth is widely held. But, still, it is easy for those of us who are ordained (as I am) to act as if this is our exclusive business. And it's easy for God's busy people to let the pastors do the work of truth speaking. If we are going to become all that God intends for us to be—both as the church and as individual Christians—then we must both affirm and embody the teaching of Ephesians 4:15. All of us need to speak the truth in love so that we might all grow up in Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: To what extent do you see yourself as a truth speaker for the kingdom of God? How is your "pastor-teacher" equipping you to speak the truth of God in the church and in the world? In what life settings do you regularly speak the truth in love? Where do you struggle to do this?
PRAYER: Gracious God, what an extraordinary privilege to be part of your truth-speaking body. Thank you for including me among those who serve you and others through what we say. May I be faithful to do that which you have assigned to me.
In my role as pastor-teacher, may I equip your people to be truth-speakers in every part of life: in their work and in their leisure, in their families and with their colleagues, in the community and in church. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.