We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). In fact, when we speak the truth in love, we are to grow together in maturity. Followers of Jesus are to speak the truth in love to one another and grow into a mature faith in Jesus, growing together in Jesus and becoming one together in Jesus. Great theory and a great call for us to do. Yet how often is it really done?
We love to speak love to one another. The Bible speaks repeatedly of Jesus’ love, of God’s love, and how we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In fact, loving our neighbor as ourselves fulfills the Old Testament laws (Galatians 5:14). Yet in merely speaking in love, we avoid conflict. And we don’t like conflict. That means we have to rock the boat. That means we have to confront someone on a tough issue where they may be doing something wrong. And then feelings might get hurt and then they might get mad and then they might do something (and for Christians, that something could be leaving the church). And anyway, aren’t we supposed to speak words of love to one another anyway, so conflict isn’t love, right?
And then you have those who just speak truth. And sometimes it’s their own version of truth. And they don’t do it in love because, well, it’s the truth and it needs to be heard. Some people speak truth for truth’s sake in trying to be “The Devi’s Advocate.” I used to be like that. I used to try to speak what I felt was the truth that no one else was speaking. And in doing so, caused a ton of arguments. When one acts as “The Devil’s Advocate,” they’re being more manipulative with the truth than actually speaking the truth. And they come across as genuine as…er…not nice people…in the process.
Years back when I was doing my training to be a mall cop (yes, I’ve worked as a mall cop before it was cool to be a mall cop…wait, was it ever cool to be a mall cop?) I was asked to change negative statements into non negative statements. The one that still sticks with me is how does one do a non negative for “No Parking.” It’s obvious you’re not supposed to park where it says “No Parking,” yet people do (and they did often). My response “Park elsewhere.” Simple. To the point. Confronting, but still respectful of the other person.
I’ve been pondering lately what it means to speak the truth in love. Too often we ere on love because we don’t want conflict, we don’t want to hurt feelings, and we don’t want (especially in Christians circles) to have someone leave church over it. At the same time, we can’t just speak the truth. Yes, it is the truth (or it could just be someone’s view of the truth) and yet when spoken without love, it hurts. And can be a wedge in the lives and relationships of others.
So how do we speak the truth in love then? I’d suggest with loving non negatives. That might sound a bit, well, wishywashy, PC, and without a backbone for some and complicated and hard for others. It still involves conflict. It still involves brining us issues that might cause pain. At the same time, it gives respect to the other person. It gives honor the other person’s thoughts, feelings, hurts, pains, and struggles. It validates their view while at the same time brings about the truth spoken in love.
When we don’t speak the truth in love, we can’t grow into maturity together. We drift back in forth in a limbo of non-conflict, and in a limbo of non-conflict there is no growth together.
That full verse in context I’ve been referring to (Ephesians 4:11-16) starts with Paul telling how God has set aside different people for different tasks within the church. He speaks of the unity of the church as a whole with Jesus as the head of the church with our goal to be the fullness of the body of Jesus here on earth. We are to seek Jesus, and in so doing, won’t be tossed back and forth in the waves of uncertainty.
“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.” Ephesians 4:15-16
When we begin speaking to one another in respectful loving non negatives, we begin to speak love to one another in the midst of conflict and disagreement. In fact, we are all made different with different gifts, talents, abilities, etc. We are all called to different areas, yet as followers of Jesus, part of one body. And the body is held together not by our love, but by the love of Jesus.
So find out how you can speak the truth in love with non negatives that are truthful yet loving, which show respect and honor the other person. In doing so, we can grow together in maturity in Jesus.
How can you speak the truth in love to someone today?