"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into 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."
Paul began this passage by reminding the Ephesians they were a part of the body of Christ and had been given the spiritual gifts Christ desired them to have. He also explained the church was given leaders to help the members mature. A part of the maturing process is to speak the truth in love so individuals become more like Christ. The fruit of this is church unity, allowing the church to function as smoothly as a human body. The hands, feet, mouth, brain, eyes, and ears each having different functions, yet all needed to get a task done. When one part of the body is weak the whole body is affected. A couple of years ago I broke my ankle and as a result lost range of motion in it. It doesn’t just affect my ankle it affects my leg muscles, my hips joints, my back and my neck. Just like an athlete who is competing will want to be able to utilize every muscle to its full extent, we want to mature and utilize every believer in the church. When everyone is striving for the same goals and God is working in each person the church functions healthily and God's work is accomplished.
What does the word “truth” mean? Some of us think that truth is our perceptions, but it isn’t. The Scripture defines truth as the law (law of truth--Malachi 2:6), Jesus (I am the way, the truth--John 1:14), and Holy Spirit (Spirit of truth--John 16:13). We are also told to rightly divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15. These verses say God is truth, His word is truth, and the Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth. I think that truth can also be what we see, feel, touch, smell, hear, and experience when it is framed with the Word of God. If I am speaking truth to someone, my words must line up with the Word. I have had people give me their opinion or feelings and claim they were "speaking truth" to me, but it had no backing with the Word of God. We are to honor and love each other and when we vent at someone in the name of "truth" it reveals more about us than the truth God may want the a person to know.
If God wants us to “speak truth” we need to be sure we have facts, the trust of the person, and knowledge of God’s Word as it pertains to the situation. We need to come along side of a person, not attack him or her. When I believe God has impressed on me to speak truth, I will often ask the person questions and listen until something is said that verifies to me that it was God’s leading. I had that happen awhile back when a girl came up to me crying and she said she didn’t know why. I felt in my spirit it was something and asked a few questions until she finally admitted why she was upset. I knew she would be helped more if she admitted what was wrong than if I pointed out what was wrong. What she told me was exactly what I felt God was telling me. Sometimes I asked students how they were doing with God, and they told me something I felt God was impressing on me to talk to them about. Brennan Manning in his book, Abba Father, tells a story about a man and several small children who got on a train he was riding. The man let his children run wild and the people near the family were becoming agitated. After awhile, the man gently asked the dad if he couldn't restore some order by asking his kids to sit down by him. With tears in his eyes the man quietly said, "Their mom died an hour ago and I don't know what to do." Had he confronted the man harshly or sat and glared at him he would have not had the opportunity to minister to him. We don't know what is going on in a heart when we are speaking the truth about behavior. So, we need to be open to learning about the persons heart.
To speak the truth in love we need to understand Biblical love. In 1 Corinthians 13 we see love is patient and kind, and it is not prideful or easily provoked. When confronting sin the initial response may be a defensive one or a judgmental one, which flows out of our pride. Love in the form of humility will see past the defense mechanism and remain gentle. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrong. Once we’ve addressed the issue, we need to let it go and let the Holy Spirit do His work. Love believes and hopes. Some people don't change because they believe they can't. We need to impart a belief that the hearer can overcome the issue and pray diligently for them. If we are called to speak truth to someone, we want to avoid using a kamikaze method. Instead, we want to be like Christ, who was in the trenches loving people He confronted. Before speaking the truth to someone, we want to bathe our words in prayer so God can fill us with His wisdom. We want to leave the individuals dignity intact, while inviting them to live in the light. We want to do it in such a way he or she believes we truly love them and want the best for them. We will be able to speak more lovingly if we remember only God can truly change a heart. Our responsibility is primarily to love and to speak the truth.
This speaking the truth thing is a part of God’s plan in maturing us so that we are not tossed to and fro by teaching that comes our way. I am a part of a counseling ministry in our church. I am really surprised at what some of the people believe when they come in. It is often a skewed view of the Word and it isn’t being taught in our church. A wise Christian once told me, “A half truth has the power of a whole lie.” We can prevent a lot of needless suffering by speaking the truth into the lives of others.
Prayer: Father, there are times that You are going to ask us to speak Your truth into someone's life. I pray that each of us will do that with a loving, humble attitude and demeanor. I also pray that we will each allow others to speak Your truth into our own lives. Help us to discern the difference between the truth and our own feelings, prejudices, and opinions. Give us both the boldness and tenderness that Christ had. Amen