When I was growing up, I had a slew of friendships in which I, quite frankly, submitted to a plethora of verbal abuses from other children. No matter what names I was called or what snide remarks came my way, I just took it. I remember my mom calling out one of these instances, to which the instigator shot back, “What? I’m just telling the truth!”
I’ve continued to encounter that mentality into my adult years, though it’s less often directed at me. “I’m just telling it how it is,” “You gotta face facts,” or “Just call a spade a spade” are a few I hear on an almost daily basis everywhere from public conversations to social media comment sections. Especially as a Christian, coming from a faith in which truth is paramount, that can be a difficult approach to argue against. Speaking the truth has almost become a salvo to say whatever we want—that is, whatever we know or believe is true. And in many circles, even Christian ones, you’ll find it doesn’t matter if the way it’s said is hurtful, disheartening, even alienating. The truth offends, after all, so that’s on you.
Yet the Bible itself calls to question the motive of our hearts when we speak. Do we tell truths just to be heard, or do we tell them to the end that others receive them, consider them, and if need be, change in healthy ways because of them? Are we using these truths as a word fitly spoken, or as a weapon? Are we clanging symbols speaking in the tongues of men and angels without love?
Ephesians 4:15-16 braids the concept of truth spoken in love with maturing in Christ. I had never really put those two concepts together before, and yet there it is, right on the page: “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, Christ, 16from whom the whole body, being fitted together and held together by every supporting ligament, with each individual part doing its proper function, produces the growth of the body with the goal of building itself up in love.”
How about that. It seems that growing up into Christ and fulfilling our function in his Body doesn’t happen unless we’re coming from a place of love. And doesn’t that just make sense? After all, the head of the Body is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God; and if God is love, then to imitate Him, all that we do must come from love. Even the way in which we express truth.
- If you have an admonishment for someone, if it’s to be rightly spoken, it must come from a place of love – not from the root of self-righteousness or self-service.
- If you’re confronting someone, it must be done with love, for the loving reason—not merely to pick a fight or justify yourself in an angry outburst.
- If you’re speaking to a reformed brother about past sin, watch how you speak to him and ask yourself—am I addressing him with love, or from a place of unresolved hurt?
- If you’re calling out someone’s flaws or shortcomings, is it because you want to see them grow and change, or is it for a selfish motive?
In any of these cases, you may be speaking truth—but the reason and the way you speak that truth is something that truly matters before God.
It is by the love of Christ that we model the truth of Christ and the way to Christ. No human form of truth or love will do.
Learning to act from godly love rather than any of a number of our human motivations is an ongoing growth. This must be checked and balanced against 1 Corinthians 13, which hallmarks the wonderful qualities of a true and holy love.
And why is it so important that we act from a place of love—that we remain deeply rooted and grounded in it, as Ephesians 3 says? Because only love can bear, believe, hope, and endure through all things. So if we are to bring the image of our Heavenly Father to everyone we meet, and endure the trials of life, relationship, confrontation, frustration, and this fallen world, we must ensure that we are rooted and grounded in love, speaking the truth in love, from the abundance of a heart full of godly love, so that we edify all those to whom we bring the Gospel as living epistles.