And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -Ephesians 4:11-14
People watching and specifically trend watching is something I do when not even noticing and now we live in a world of immediate pulpits for our opinions i.e. Social Media, the Internet, so it is so much easier these days to see sin trends because there they are blinking at us from a computer screen. Of course I know that this is again preaching to myself because I see my own trends of sin and disobedience in this as well. Writing this post took prayer and study of the Word and listening to others on the matter and I feel like it may just stabbing a tank with a spoon (it’s a heavy topic, for myself as well) but I hope I can benefit from the writing of it.
So what does speaking the truth in love mean?
If you look at the specific phrase “Rather, speaking the truth in love” from the scripture, you can draw out the two virtues; truth and love. Truth in this verse in the greek is alētheuō (Strong’s G226) meaning to to deal faithfully or truly with anyone or “I say, speak truth, I do truth”. It comes from the the root word alēthēs (Strong’s G227) which means primarily, “unconcealed, manifest”. Truth in this context is used here: Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. John 3 :33 and here: At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8. We could say that the Truth discussed is a divine truth and as we are transformed and daily transforming that true light lovingly shines light in dark places.
What speaking the truth in love is not.
I don’t believe that the examples Christ and the Disciples set for us show speaking the truth to be anything but simply about primary Biblical Truths. We shouldn’t make bad theology slathered in warm fuzzies a thing or even good theology spoken unlovingly or any permeations of either. “Truth” is the Truth of Jesus Christ, not the truth of our own hearts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and that Truth is shined upon the Truth of the reality our sin and our need for Grace. I understand that we live in a culture where we feel we must be heard, forums for public speech have never been so near us as a few key swipes on our digital devices. Speaking our minds on an issues or voicing feelings are not innately bad things but we do need to understand that there is a distinction between “Biblical Truth” and “personal truth”, and honestly the heart is just a big fat liar, it can’t be trusted. What we shout from the rooftops of personal value systems is not as important than the Gospel.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9
I recently heard this conversation; “I told them what I was feeling on the matter and they didn’t like it. I was just speaking the truth in love, it’s truth to me, well, and I thought it was loving because it may have seemed harsh but it would have been unloving to say nothing at all, in my opinion. Is it my fault that they were offended by my opinions?”. There is no Love here, it was just a moral truth on the speaker’s part. Love as a guise to spouting one’s opinion is faked kindness and veiled self-righteosuness. When I wrote this post: Be Wary of the Flags you Fly, I was speaking a lot about opinions we hold onto as titles in our lives, I hope this is a step further.
As a fellow believer I want to hear about the things that are important to you, I want to listen to your heart but I also want to say “Let’s examine what we speak of most”. If we only speak of politics, personal choices of food, dress, health, parenting, entertainment and all the personal opinions about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and so on into oblivion what truth are we speaking about? It isn’t the truth of Life. Let’s stop making all this talk of death things our primary discourse. What I mean is that all those opinions, all those things that create those opinions, they all die. THEY ALL DIE. Isn’t it time to examine our Facebook feeds and our mouth feeds to see if we speak of death things mostly or of Life things. I don’t want the take-away of this post to be that you should never express opinions on anything or talk about only Christ. That isn’t my intention, You may know I am very opinionated person but I do believe that the distinction have to be made between what is Truth, Gospel Truth, and what just “truth” to you and you cannot equate the two.
My opinion and my emotions are not Biblical Truth.
Regardless about how you feel on a subject, your opinion unless lined up with scripture fully is not truth. It may be “truth” to you on some level, but it is not “biblical truth”. Being raised in churches with high emotional content, with most things done in a way to impact emotions firstly and then add Jesus in, I remember a lot of opinions and feelings about God, about life, about everything under the sun and I believed a lot of those opinions and conjecture to be Biblical Truth. The fact that it wasn’t and simply put it scarred me deeply. I was wary for many, many years with spiritual people starting sentences with “I feel…”, to the point I would avoid these conversations completely. As an adult and reformed and studying the word I don’t believe emotions are unwelcome in the church but instead of our manipulated emotions or opinions moving us toward truth like I had seen in the past, we should be moved emotionally by truth in the scriptures, firstly. I am moved by the truth of what God has done and promised to me not by my emotions. So when I say our opinions and emotions are not truth, I do mean it, I mean that if it is not scripture, it is not Biblical Truth. And you are probably reading this and going “yah, right” because you have been on the other end of my emotions and bad advice at one point or another and I am truly sorry.
Biblical Truth is not complaining from my moral perspective.
Moralism is one of the greatest enemies of Biblical Truth.
The legalist is usually a moral person. In fact, the majority of moral people in the Western world are legalists because their so-called Judeo-Christian morality, inherited from their forefathers, does not grow out of a humble, contrite reliance on the blood-bought, Spirit-wrought, merciful enabling of God. On the contrary, for the legalist, morality serves the same function that immorality does for the antinomian or the progressive–namely, as the expression or self-reliance and self-assertion. The reason some Pharisees tithed and fasted was the same reason some university students take off their clothes and lie around naked in the parks in Munich and Amsterdam. -John Piper
Moralism or Legalism is a problem in the church and for anyone that has been on the other end of moral judgement knows that there is something that is off-message here. Moralism says that we can make ourselves holy, we can make ourselves right in the eyes of God but most importantly to the Moralist, really to the eyes of Man. Look holy, walk holy, eat holy things, wear holy clothes, this is what makes us perfect, this is what makes us more like God. There is no room for Grace, Repentance or the Love of Christ, no room for Biblical Truth. Diedrich Bonhoeffer calls it “Cheap Grace”, ‘Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate’. I think we have to ask ourselves if our value systems, our morals trump Biblical Truth in our lives and are we careful what we speak to others if this is the case?
I remember a very unfortunate conversation I had as a college student, I think about it every know and then remorsefully. I was spending the night with a new friend, a girl that had been visiting my church and was searching for truth. She would ask questions and I would try to answer them in my very naive, very un-scriptured way. I was speaking personal opinions as Truth. I couldn’t back up what I said with scripture because I didn’t know it and I didn’t know how to, to be honest. Some very sensitive questions I answered like a whiplash based on my American Moral Value System and now I know how wrong I was and how much my words lacked Love and Grace. I left her confused and with more questions than before. I spoke from my Morals because Moralism was my religion and Grace was just a pretty word we sung at church.
Biblical Truth is Biblical Truth but We Cannot Forget Love.
I read somewhere once that Speaking the truth in love is not saying true things nicely. I agree with that statement. If we agree that speaking truth in love means “biblical truth” but that also when speaking Biblical Truths we can’t just shout true things in people’s faces and expect anything from that.
The Way of Love If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. -1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
We can look at the Woman at the Well for a beautiful illustration:
… Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true. … – John 4
Christ lovingly shines that Gospel Light mentioned above in 1 John 2:8 on her sin and speaks divine truth to her.
We know that sharing the Gospel can be hard when we are learning to do it and Biblical Discipline within believers can sometimes be tougher and more uncomfortable than we’d want but the motivations of heart are very important. The motivation that comes from a heart that desires to add members to it’s family because we know Truth is so needed for hurting, broken people and to Love on them with the Love of Christ is beautiful. And that Agape, Brotherly Love that we feel for each member of the body that will help build each other up within that family is also just as beautiful. “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Cor 12:25 and 26.
The world looks much different than in decades past, we have the internet and smartphones and a flood of social networking sites and apps that we can hide behind. A million ways to connect and we must choose to do them wisely. Whether we are speaking directly or indirectly we must be careful about speaking non-gospel truths with the same authority we speak of the Gospel and when we do share Gospel truth our motivations should always be out of Love and not to prove ourselves right. John Piper says that Truth shapes Love and I agree. How can we show the truth of a Loving God to others if we don’t show Love ourselves.
“Truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.” -Tim Keller
But I want to encourage us to speak Truth more and to do it in Love. We don’t need to follow the trends of society, our fruit should be different, look different. The Gospel is primary and should be the primary thing we speak of and always in Love.