The phrase “speaking the truth in love” comes from Ephesians 4:15, which says “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This verse gives an important principle for how Christians should relate to one another within the body of Christ. Specifically, it teaches that we should speak the truth to each other, but do so in a loving way. Let’s break this down further:
1. Speaking the Truth
To “speak the truth” means to be honest, genuine, and sincere in what we say. As Christians, we believe in absolute, objective truth that comes from God’s Word. We should speak this truth accurately and without compromise. Some key aspects of speaking the truth include:
– Using speech that aligns with God’s Word and His standards of righteousness.
– Avoiding falsehood, inaccuracies, exaggerations, and distortions of the truth.
– Standing up for doctrinal truth and core principles of the Christian faith.
– Gently correcting those who are in error, rather than ignoring issues.
– Admitting when we ourselves are wrong and have fallen short of God’s truth.
– Sharing the gospel – the ultimate truth that leads to salvation.
So in summary, to “speak the truth” means being real, honest, and biblically accurate in all we say to others. It reflects a high view of scripture and a desire to align our speech with God’s revelation of Himself.
2. In Love
While truth is vital, Ephesians 4:15 also stresses that it must be balanced with love. We are called to speak the truth to each other “in love” – meaning with patience, grace, empathy and care for others. Here are some ways we can ensure we are doing this:
– Have a loving motivation focused on the other person’s growth rather than just proving we are right.
– Be patient and gentle, recognizing people are at different stages of spiritual maturity. Don’t expect complete truth understanding too fast.
– Make the focus about strengthening the relationship, not just correcting facts. Speak in a way that builds up others.
– Consider the other person’s perspective and background. What life experiences may make this hard for them to accept? Have compassion.
– Watch our tone of voice and body language. Even true words can hurt if shared harshly or condescendingly.
– Think carefully about our word choice. Make sure it is seasoning with grace and encouragement.
– Check our own hearts first to remove pride, anger or judgment against others. Self-examination comes before confrontation.
– Remember how much God has forgiven us. Reciprocate His incredible mercy as we share truth.
Therefore, speaking in love means our truth-telling is wrapped in gentleness, patience, humility and care for the one hearing it. This makes the message easier to receive and more likely to result in growth, repentance and lasting change.
3. Why Speak the Truth in Love?
There are several key reasons Scripture emphasizes speaking truth in love:
1. It is Christ-like. Jesus Himself perfectly modeled this balance of truth and grace: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) We are called to follow His example with both grace-filled words and truth-filled words.
2. It promotes growth. Constructive, loving truth-telling helps believers grow. “He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13) – God uses humans also in this process! We play a role in teaching, exhorting and guiding one another into maturity with humble, loving input.
3. It maintains unity. Speaking truth in unloving ways causes dissension. But sharing it in love promotes harmony and understanding, even when disagreements arise. We stay unified because we know truth was given for our good, not to harm or divide.
4. It guards the gospel witness. When Christians are known for being loving and gracious in how they share truth, it makes the gospel attractive to unbelievers. It shows how God’s truth truly transforms people to be gracious and patient towards one another.
5. It follows Christ’s command. Jesus directly told us “Love one another” (John 13:34). Speaking truth is important, but never outranks showing love. The two must go hand-in-hand.
So in summary, this biblical model brings positive results in spiritual growth, relationships, unity and gospel witness. As believers, we have the responsibility to guard both the content of truth and the manner in which we share it.
4. Practical Examples
To better understand what it looks like practically, let’s walk through some examples:
A) Sharing a doctrinal concern
Perhaps a fellow Christian starts professing beliefs you know to be unbiblical. For example, he denies the deity of Christ.
Truth: You need to address this doctrinal error directly through reasoned arguments and Scripture. Do not ignore or downplay false teaching.
Love: However, begin by asking gentle, gracious questions to understand his thinking and background influences. Affirm areas of orthodox belief you share. Frame correction as an invitation into deeper understanding, not an attack. Be patient in ongoing dialogue. Pray for him more than arguing.
B) Discussing sin patterns
If a friend harbors sinful habits or beliefs contrary to biblical standards, it requires truth and love to help restore them.
Truth: Sin cannot be minimized or winked at. We must call it what it is, while pointing to grace and forgiveness available in Christ. Use God’s Word to shine light on the unhealthy attitudes or behavior patterns requiring change.
Love: Yet this should always be done in a spirit of gentleness and humility, not superiority and judgment (remembering we too are saved sinners). Make it clear your desire is to serve this person and strengthen them in their faith and obedience. Offer your shoulder to cry on as they walk through repentance.
C) Engaging non-believers
When sharing Christ with non-Christians, both truth and love are critical so the message is conveyed accurately yet persuasively.
Truth: Do not compromise or downplay the hard truths of the gospel that confront human sinfulness and the exclusivity of Christ. Lovingly warn about coming judgment for those who deny Him.
Love: Yet discuss these truths conversationally, not confrontationally. Be generous in listening to their perspectives and objections. Find common ground to build rapport. Explain the grace that God offers freely through the cross. Make it clear you are for them, not against them.
D) Correcting as a leader
Those in teaching or leadership roles have a responsibility to correct false doctrine and harmful behavior in their churches.
Truth: Leaders must refute unsound teaching and firmly guide people toward repentance when ongoing sin undermines their witness and unity of the body. Do this humbly but resolutely, looking to Scripture as the standard.
Love: However, remember that God did not appoint you as judge, but servant-shepherd. Therefore correct with tears, not pride or harshness. Make it clear your deep care and desire for their restoration. Forbear, forgive and exemplify patience as God has shown you.
So in all things, whether confronting church heresy or unbelievers on the street, balancing bold truth with selfless, Christ-like love is essential. Our words, tone and manner of speaking should reflect the gospel.
5. How to Grow in Speaking Truth in Love
Here are some tips for improving in this area:
– Pray for humility, compassion and grace before entering any conversation where you’ll need to speak hard truth. Ask God to guard your heart motives.
– Study Jesus’ gentle yet uncompromising example in scripture. Analyze how He perfectly blended bold teaching with compassionate care for people.
– Examine your own inner motives – do you crave being right or winning arguments more than serving others in love? Confess any pride.
– Role play with a trusted friend. Have them point out areas you could improve in tone, body language or word choice when discussing a sensitive topic.
– Ask for feedback from family or church members after a conversation where you shared a hard truth. Did you speak in a way that honored Christ?
– Measure success not by convincing others, but by how well you modeled Jesus’ redeeming grace and truth despite any disagreement that remains.
– Immerse yourself in Bible passages about God’s mercy, patience and forgiveness toward us. Let this inspire greater grace as you share truth with others.
– Talk to respected mentors who themselves model Christ-like speech. Learn from their examples of speaking truth in season and out of season.
As we grow in biblically sharing truth in love, we become more effective ambassadors of Jesus. Our words shine His light graciously into others’ lives. We should regularly examine if both our “truth telling” and our “love showing” line up with the principles revealed in God’s Word.
6. Truth AND Love are Essential
In summary, Christians are called to speak the truth in love because:
– Truth without love leads to self-righteous pride, judgmental attitudes and callous correction that only pushes others away.
– Love without truth harbors deception, ignores harmful sin patterns and undermines the power of the gospel to transform lives.
– Truth and love together reflect the very character of Christ. This transforms relationships and builds up others on the path of discipleship.
When we commit to this biblical balance, our words will model the grace and truth that God brings to every human life. Our speech becomes one way we spread the light of the gospel in a fallen world that desperately needs it.