Grow Up: Speaking the Truth in Love, Part 4
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.
So far, in our close reading of the phrase "speaking the truth in love," we have seen that our words matter, that all of God's people are to speak, and that the truth is, primarily, the good news of God in all of its dimensions. Today, I'd like us to consider this question: What does it mean to speak the truth in love?
Let me begin by suggesting what this does not mean. Speaking the truth in love does not mean always being "nice." It does not mean never saying anything that might ruffle someone's feathers or even hurt someone's feelings. If Jesus is our prime example of truth speaking, then we must surely realize that sometimes speaking the truth in love won't be "nice." (Of course, this realization should not be used to defend cruel or harsh speech.)
What does it mean, then, to speak the truth in love? The word "love," either as a noun or a verb, appears in Ephesians 17 times. We can't examine every instance of the word here. But it may be good to look ahead to a passage at the beginning of chapter 5: "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (5:1-2). We are to love others as those who have experienced God's gracious, merciful, redeeming love. Thus, when we speak the truth in love, we speak graciously and redemptively, hoping to draw people into God's embrace. We are to love in the way Christ loved us, by sacrificing himself for us. Thus, we speak the truth in love, not to promote ourselves but rather to serve others and lift them up.
As I consider what it means to speak the truth in the way of Christ's love, I'm struck by how often my own speaking includes thinly veiled self-promotion. Yes, I want to tell the truth, and I want you to think I'm somebody special. Yes, I want to say what's right, and I want you to think I'm right. My motivations are mixed, to be sure. Yet, the more I am transformed by God's love, the more I am modeling myself on Christ, the more I will speak the truth without a concern for my own advancement. I will seek to serve others and to help them see how wonderful God is.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think of speaking the truth in love, what comes to mind? Can you think of people in your life who have spoken to you in love? Are there contexts in which you speak the truth to others in love? How would the example of Christ's sacrifice influence your speaking?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for loving me, for adopting me into your family, for saving me through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Teach me, I pray, how to live and speak in love. Give me wisdom to know what this means, not just in general, but in every situation of life. Purify my heart, so that when I speak, I am seeking to serve others and glorify you, rather than to serve and glorify myself. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.