Speaking the Truth in Love

The other day a few of us were talking about “speaking the truth in love”. We, of course, were trying to correct a guy that was not doing that. It was a tough conversation because I think the guy was holding onto truth tighter than he was holding onto love. The challenge for me during that conversation was to hold on to truth AND love at the same time. It’s easy to hate a hateful person, but that would put me in league with the hateful person out of hate. I wanted to be in league with him because we are both in Christ.

Later in the day, I looked up that verse. We always quote “speak the truth in love” but what is its context? What else goes with that saying? It turns out a LOT.

The opening of Ephesians 4 is about unity. Paul urges the Ephesian church, from prison, to do whatever they can to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit by being at peace with each other. It is by humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love that this happens.

That is probably the first red flag. We achieve unity through humility. The further we get away from humility, the further away we will be from unity. At the last supper, when Jesus was addressing the disciples who had spent part of the meal arguing who was the most important, He told them that “all men will know you are my disciples” by their love for one another. Love and unity go hand in hand because you can’t love each other and be fighting.

How about this part:

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV)

I have heard ‘prophets’ and ‘teachers’ say before that they are ‘just telling the truth.’ I can agree with them. All too often, though, they are speaking the truth without love. Considering the high stakes of Christian unity and the Body of Christ, you would think that truth would not have so killed off love in the Church. 

Love is bearing with others. Love is considering that you don’t have to tell your brother where he is wrong, but you can instead teach by your own lifestyle and loving conversation instead of the truth grenade. Jesus did yell at the scribes and the Pharisees, but that was after a long series of loving face to face conversations. 

Prophets and evangelists (good news tellers) are given to build up the body of Christ. This building up doesn’t happen by chopping off the sick parts and denying friendship with the parts that don’t look like us. Think of how the human body works. If a part is sick or injured or just plain wrong, the body sends white blood cells, antibodies, extra blood and oxygen, platelets, etc until the wound is healed. What if that is how we responded with truth? 

What would happen if we held on to truth (which is Christ) and increased our love? What if we increased our love even more for those that we disagree with, or are even our enemies? That is one of Christ’s most compelling teachings and that fits right in line with these things from Paul and Christ’s words of forgiveness from the cross. 

[15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  
(Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV)

Leaving Room for God or Bumping Him Out of Vengence

Romans 12:19-21 NET

19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If we repay, or take justice into our own hands, we risk becoming the oppressor. We risk beating the evil of our enemy by being more severe or untrue or unjust than they were. When that happens, we take away the room for God's justice, because He always takes the side of the persecuted or oppressed underdog.

1 Corinthians 6:7

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

He is saying that it would be better to be defeated than to risk man-made justice that threw dirt on God's face.

How many times do you get in a fight (maybe this just happens between husbands and wives?) and afterwards you see that it was an argument over less than $10? After the fact, don't you ever think "Man, I would totally pay $20 for peace and reconciliation right now!"

Romans 12:19-21 NET

19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.