“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT)
Have you ever said something, then, often before the words cleared your lips, wished you hadn’t said it? Or you see something on Facebook that so enrages you, you respond in anger and hostility, only later to wish you’d never written what you sent? We’ve all been there, but on the other hand, have you ever had an opportunity to hear something for which you had a perfect response, but kept your mouth shut?
In the verse above Paul is giving us a rich and rewarding alternative – “speak the truth in love.” What might that look like? Let me be clear from the outset – Truth, as it’s used in Scripture, has two important dimensions. First, Jesus is the embodiment of all truth. He IS Truth! In John 14:6 Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And the second use of truth that is pertinent to every believer is the Bible, the Sacred Text.
A new bank teller, wanting to be prepared for her new position, asked: “With so many sophisticated ways to counterfeit currency, how can I possibly recognize what isn’t real?” To which her trainer said: “Train yourself to know what’s real, then compare everything else to that.” There are a lot of “fakes” and lies the devil is seeking to pass as truth in these last days.
Jesus warned us in Mark 13:22: “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!”
That’s why it’s so critical to read and study God’s written word, the Bible, every day. Before we can speak the truth, we have to know the Truth, but knowing the truth isn’t enough in and of itself. We can push people away from Jesus if we don’t handle His truth – the truth of who He is, what He came to accomplish, and how we should respond – with love.
In our zeal to please the Lord we can cram truth down someone’s throat. We can know and love Jesus and embrace His truth with our whole being and still come across as a kamikaze pilot, like we’re coming in for the proverbial “kill.”
There was a young man I’d literally worked with for months who had been hurt by people of the church. He’d finally begun to open up to me why he was so resistant to coming to church and being open to the claims of Christ. We were talking on my driveway when a guy I’d met a few times came up and without any introduction or having no clue as to how long I’d been working with this young man, began to hammer him with the “truth.”
The words he used were “correct,” but his attitude and approach were abrasive and the young man repelled his words and literally walked away. As hard as I tried, he would never speak to me again. We only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so, especially when it comes to sharing the Truth of the Gospel, we’ve got to carefully and prayerfully follow the Spirit’s leading.
Just like pressing “send” too quickly can have devastating results, we’ve got to be willing to press the “pause” button and carefully consider, not only what we’re going to say, but how our words will be received. To not care about how someone will receive our words is to risk ruining an opportunity for them to receive the Messenger behind our message.
Blessings, Ed 😊