Grow Up: Speaking the Truth in Love, Part 3Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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.
A few days ago, we began a close reading of a crucial phrase in Ephesians 4:15, "speaking the truth in love." I suggested that, if we are to understand this phrase accurately, we need to consider four 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? So far, we have seen that the emphasis upon speaking the truth underscores the power of the words we use. Moreover, we, the people of God, are the ones who speak the truth that contributes to the growth of the body of Christ. This task is not reserved for the clergy. In fact, clergy are given the privilege and responsibility of equipping God's people, the laity, so that they might speak the truth with accuracy and power (4:11-12).
Our next question is: What truth are we to speak?
I have often heard Christians answer this question in a particularly narrow way. They read "speaking the truth in love" as referring specifically to the act of admonishment. When a brother or sister persists in sin, then we need to speak the truth to them in love, confronting them about their behavior so that they might repent. Now, I think this kind of speaking the truth in love is vital to the health of the Christian community (see Matt. 18:15-20; Gal. 6:1-2). But I do not believe it gets at the heart of the meaning of "speaking the truth in love" in Ephesians 4:15.
Rather, the truth we are to speak in love is, fundamentally, the truth of the Gospel. It's the truth that God is uniting all things in Christ. It's the truth of God's love in Jesus Christ. It's the truth that we have been saved by grace through faith. It's the truth that we are God's handiwork, created in Christ for good works. It's the truth that, through Christ, God has broken down the wall of hostility between people. It's the truth that God is able to do immeasurably more than we all ask or imagine. The Gospel is the truth that we all should speak to each other and to the world.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you need to walk up to strangers on the street and starting talking about Jesus. This may not be your calling. But I am suggesting that you and I need to learn to speak honestly, freely, and appropriately about God and his grace. We need to remind our brothers and sisters in Christ of God's love when they are discouraged. We need to let the world know that God is healing the brokenness of creation and that they participate in this work.
I'm also not recommending that you fill your speech with lots of "God-talk" that rings of inauthenticity. This can keep us from growing in Christ and chase away those who aren't yet believers. Rather, I believe we need to learn to talk about God in ways that fit who we are and who God is. We need to speak the truth that ought to be spoken, but not all of the truth at once.
This brings us to the question of what it means to speak the truth in love. We'll consider this tomorrow. For now, let me encourage you to mull over the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what contexts do you speak the truth? Are you comfortable talking about God's grace? Why or why not? Are there times you know you should speak of this truth, but you hold back? Why? What might help you to become comfortable and free in speaking the truth of the Gospel?
PRAYER: Gracious God, you have entrusted to your people—indeed, to me—the high calling of speaking your truth to others. Help us to do this faithfully, honestly, and sensitively. Help us to know when to speak and when to remain silent. May we be unafraid to speak of you according to the truth of your Word. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.