February is here, and because of Valentine’s Day, it is the month of love. Just walk through any store and you will see all the hearts and flowers that are for sale that only appear this month. As Christians, we know that ‘love’ is the summary characteristic of a believer’s life, and that is should go on all the time. We are to love God, love Christ, love the church, love God’s Word, love our spouse, love our kids, love our enemies, love our neighbors, and so on. This month I wanted to draw our attention to another area of love that Scripture calls for, and I believe it is one of the hardest to really master.
Ephesians 4:15 says we are to “speak the truth in love.” I believe this is one of the hardest ‘love’ commands to follow. Speaking the truth requires a believer to be fearless and bold, ready and willing to confront and/or correct another. But also, that truth speaking must be done with an attitude of love, with a genuine concern for the other person. It’s a delicate balance, and difficult to perfect.
This verse is in the context of describing believers growing in spiritual maturity (vv 13-14). So, speaking the truth in love, is the mark of a spiritually mature person. Also, verse 14 is warning us to not be spiritual children who are tricked and deceived into thinking all kinds of things. So the truth speaking is not just about trivial things, although that still applies. It is primarily about believers who are wavering in their beliefs and doctrines. Can you imagine confronting someone about that? As I said, this is a difficult aspect of love.
Some people are great at speaking the truth. They have no fear “telling it like it is.” They are not shy about letting their feelings and/or desires be made known. They will say what needs to be said without any second guessing about the awkwardness it might cause for the other person. But, if all that truth speaking is not done in a loving way, the other person is turned off and doesn’t hear. The truth speaker is viewed as “mean” or even “rude,” when maybe they really are speaking the truth! But if the love is not there, people won’t receive it.
Other people are great at loving. They love everybody and everything everybody does. They avoid, at all costs, confronting or correcting other people. And usually they avoid this out of concern for being labeled “unloving” or “judgmental.” Siding completely on the side of “love” avoids the truth, and in reality, becomes unhelpful.
The key is to find the delicate balance. Speaking the truth must be done in a loving way, with concern for the other person’s well being and feelings. And loving that other person must always be in truth, which means confronting when an offense has happened. To ignore it and let it continue would not be love.
If we all implement this, I see a church of spiritually mature believers who can confront with the truth in love for their fellow brother/sister. Some examples are: “That language really wasn’t appropriate.” Or, “I think that choice of clothing is a little too revealing.”
In order for us all to be able to do this, we need to look for it when it is done to us. When another believer confronts me about an offense, I want to welcome that because that believer loves me and doesn’t want me to continue offending. So, speak the truth in love and look for others who are speaking the truth in love to you.
Pastor Mark Scialabba