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:
 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  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.
 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  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)