“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 4:15-16
I have heard the truth spoken boldly but without love, and it cuts to the quick. I wondered if the words were intended to hurt me or truly help me change. Paul lived and taught a very different way. He called people to speak the truth of Jesus Christ, to encourage faithfulness and purity, but to do so from a posture of love. The goal should always be to build up, rather than tear down. If legalism could actually change lives and hearts, the Pharisees would have raised up faithful followers. However, Jesus challenged the Pharisees to stop focusing on outward appearances and focus on the heart. Speaking the truth in love means addressing a person’s innermost being. What is happening within them that leads to wayward living? What beliefs might be distorting their understanding of the truth?
When speaking the truth in love, we are to remember how God has dealt with us. While we were still sinners, he sent his Son to die for us. He calls us to himself and covers us in grace and righteousness through Jesus. Time and time again, he exercises divine patience and expresses his steadfast love. The Lord sees and understands everything about us. While he accepts us in our sin, he also calls us to deeper sanctification, to become more and more like his Son. That is where we are called to come together as the body of Christ. We are called to accept and love one another where we are. However, as we read in Proverbs: “Iron sharpens iron” (27:17). While accepting one another as we are is important, it is equally important to exhort one another, to challenge weaknesses or wrong thinking, and to pray for one another. Beyond that, God also encourages us to be accountable to one another.
Relationships can be very hard work! That is why it is so important to heed Paul’s words and speak the truth in love. When you approach me with a godly challenge, I am going to be uncomfortable. No one likes to hear that they are living in sin. However, if I know that you are challenging me out of love for me and commitment to my well-being, I am much more inclined to receive the words and to ask for help in implementing them. The truth of the matter is that I need you and you need me. God created us to be interdependent. We begin with the vertical relationship to the triune God then move to the horizontal relationship with God’s children. One informs the other.
How are you speaking the truth in love? How are you receiving the truth spoken in love? Do you recognize that, while God loves you just as you are, he longs to see you transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? And do you recognize that your brothers and sisters in Christ are part of that sanctification for you, just as you are for them?
Lord, we pray that our hearts would be softened to your truth, that we would be faithful conduits of that truth to one another, and that we would live into and out of your love.
Reflect and Respond:
Where can you speak the truth in love today? Where can you receive the truth spoken in love today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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