Grow Up: Speaking the Truth in Love, Part 6Daily 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.
According to Ephesians 4:15, it is through "speaking the truth in love" that we will grow up as Christians. In recent reflections, we have seen that our practice of love is based on our experience of God's love in Jesus Christ. Such love points to tangible implications, such as we find in 1 Corinthians 13. We are to speak patiently, kindly, etc.
But there is another dimension to "in love" that we might easily overlook. For Paul, love is not an abstract concept or an ideal. It is a fact of God's own nature. It is an experience of God through Jesus Christ. And, crucially, it is a defining characteristic of Christian community. I would suggest that "speaking the truth in love" might almost be paraphrased, "speaking the truth in the context of loving Christian community."
This interpretation fits what we see elsewhere in Ephesians 4. In verses 2-3 we read: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Love is an expression of redeemed people in action. It stands at the center of the unified body of Christ. Similarly, as we'll see a little later on in our reflective amble through Ephesians, the body of Christ grows and "builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (4:16). Love is the lifeblood of the body of Christ, that which enables it to mature.
When Paul mentions "speaking the truth in love," he isn't envisioning a lone Christian saying something. Rather, he pictures the people of God as a unified body, a body that is made possible and nurtured by love.
Practically speaking, this means that you and I wish to speak the truth in love, then we need to be deeply connected to the body of Christ. This sort of connection doesn't happen in the abstract. It isn't enough to have lots of Christian "friends" on Facebook. We will experience loving Christian community only in the context of the local body of believers, that which we usually call the church.
If you've been a member of a genuinely loving church—not a perfect one, mind you, just a genuinely loving one—then you have no doubt experienced the kind of truth-speaking envisioned in Ephesians 4:15. When we speak the truth of the Gospel to each other on a regular basis, then our love becomes powerful and rich. When we love each other actively and sacrificially, then we are better able to speak the truth that needs to be spoken.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you connected to the body of Christ through a local body of believers, a place where people strive to speak the truth in love? How does genuine loving community make possible the speaking of the truth? In what ways do you speak the truth in the context of your Christian community?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as we seek to speak the truth in love, may we do so in concert with our fellow members of your body. And may our fellowship be shaped and nurtured by your love, such that our love reflects the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we love, help us to speak the truth to each other and to our neighbors.
Help me, Lord, to be lovingly committed to your body, so that I might hear the truth and tell the truth in love. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.