Friday, September 7, 2012

"Speaking the truth in love ..."

You may have heard this phrase before.  It is taken from Paul's letter to the Ephesian believers, chapter 4, verse 15.  The whole verse reads like this:  "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

Do you ever want to SCREAM the truth to people?  I'm not talking about people who don't know God, but about those who DO know God and who claim to know Christ ... and some of them actually do know Christ. ... They might be members of your family, or close friends, or part of your church family, or just part of the larger body of Christ.  Do you ever want to scream at people who say they are Christians, but who are acting in such a way that they are bringing disgrace to the name of Christ and to His body??  Do you ever want to say, "Stop it!  GROW UP!!!"??

I'm sure there have been times when people have wanted to scream at me for that reason.  In fact, come to think of it, there have been those that HAVE screamed at me when they saw or heard me speaking or acting in a way contrary to my confession.  And speaking of confession, I haven't always honored Christ in my words and my actions - I still have moments, and I suspect you do, too.  But screaming doesn't usually help the situation, and words spoken in anger and frustration more often than not fall on deaf ears.  What then are we to do?  Should we just ignore the actions of others?  Should we just consider it none of our business?  What's a Christian to do?

As Paul wrote to the Ephesians he was concerned about their life together.  He says in Chapter 4, verse 3, that we should "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  Some think this means ignoring our differences and just getting along.  But that's not what he goes on to say.  He says that Christ has given apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."  The goal, as he goes on to say in verse 13, is that there would be REAL unity - a oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.  God wants us to mature, to reach "the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

How does that happen?  It happens when we "speak the truth in love" to one another.  Too many people are "talking the talk, but not walking the walk."  He describes some in verse 14 as being "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."  There are some who are actually TRYING to deceive others as they waver back and forth between opposing and contradictory views of almost every subject.  They scorn doctrine and say things like, "no one has a corner on truth."  They don't want anyone "judging" them and yet they are more than happy to throw stones at others.

But GOD has a corner on truth, and His Word IS truth!  There are behaviors that are just not acceptable for those who know Christ - period!  And it's not just the BIG sins, but things like gossip and lying and hatred and a host of others.  When people we know claim to be part of God's family and consistently live in ways contrary to His Word, we need to do something.  Leaving them alone to be tossed back and forth by the wind and waves is not an option, any more than standing on the shore watching someone drown is an option.  "INSTEAD, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ." 

He gives us encouragement to be engaged in this task when he says, in verse 16, "From HIM (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."  The most loving and useful thing to do as we live together in the body of Christ is to help each other to grow up, and that requires "speaking the truth in love."  Love doesn't mean avoiding the truth.  There's a difference between being hyper-critical, tearing people down, demanding perfection, being rude, arrogant, judgmental ... you get the idea ...  there's a difference between that and loving someone enough to say, "I love you and I'm concerned about you."

It takes courage to speak the truth, even when you know it comes from a motivation of love, because it's not always received that way. But God tells us this is important.  I'll talk more about it tomorrow.

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