The Bible says that "truth" is the "belt" of the spiritual armor we need to withstand Satan's attack and the temptations we face every day - temptations to live in a way contrary to our confession (Ephesians 6:14). The Church, the body of Christ, is "the pillar and foundation of truth" (I Timothy 3:15). Jesus said that His disciples would know the truth and the truth would set them free (John 8:32) ... free from the bondage to sin in which every one of us is born. This is all good news, isn't it?! Then why is it so hard for us to share the truth with each other and to hear the truth sometimes?
Yesterday, I shared that while we are called to "speak the truth in love," so that we will grow up (mature) in Christ, there are times when people within the body refuse to hear the truth, even when it is spoken in love. Love always has the glory of God and the other person's spiritual welfare foremost in mind. Just speaking to make a point is not speaking the truth in love; neither is venting or letting other people know how you feel. When speaking the truth to others we need to speak the truth to ourselves first and check our motives. Ephesians 4:11-16 says that we are to build one another up, not tear down. Much damage has been done by those who break this rule.
But that must not immobilize brothers and sisters in Christ so that we do not fulfill our God-given responsibility to hold one another accountable. Paul writes in II Timothy 3:16 that "all Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Most people don't mind being taught - if it's their choice to be taught, but few people appreciate being rebuked or corrected. This is where "speaking the truth in love" becomes a challenge. We all need to hear the truth and we all need to be rebuked or corrected from time to time.
Rebuke sounds harsh and correction seems unpleasant, but they are not intended to be so. These things are meant to be done where there is a relationship of love and trust. This is sadly missing in many church bodies today. People jump from one place to the next for various reasons - some being led by the Spirit ... others trying to find a place that they like or that satisfies their own specific needs. But for whatever reason, people seem to find it difficult to put down roots and build relationships where biblical accountability can take place. Perhaps the best place for this to happen is in a small group.
The early believers met together in their homes. They ate bread together and shared true biblical fellowship. They didn't have Bibles. All they knew was what they had heard. But they knew Jesus, they stood together against the world, and they turned the world upside down. But I think we sometimes, maybe often, glamorize the early church. They had the same struggles we do and I doubt that too many of them liked being rebuked or corrected either. We set ourselves up for major disappointment if we think that ours will be the first congregation in the history of the Church to have no disagreements or broken relationships. We are all in the process of becoming like Christ. It requires commitment and patience to be part of the body of Christ in this world.
Still, God says that we must "speak the truth in love," and that truth must not be our own ideas, theories of men, or quotes from some well-known author. What we share with one another should be, must be, God's Word. That means that you and I must be students of God's Word, learning and growing ourselves so that we will be able to be God's instruments to share His truth with others. If this sounds like work, it is! But remember, the TRUTH - GOD's truth, will set you and others free to serve the living God with joy. And that makes it all worth it!