but always in love.
BY DAWN SHERILL-PORTER
Have you ever delayed or avoided seeking advice from a godly friend because you knew it would be what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear? You may not have been conscious of the reason for your hesitancy, but deep down, you knew your wants were a bit out of line. Maybe you were trying to make a decision about something you thought would make you happy, but you knew your friend would gently but firmly remind you that anything that leads you away from God will never lead you to true joy. Though their words could sting a bit, you knew you could trust them to speak the truth to you in love.
Speaking the truth in love sounds simple; but the ability to walk this out consistently is a sign of maturity in Christ. This isn’t something that ever comes easily; but it can become part of the rhythm of our lives as the body of Christ. Ephesians 4 gives us a beautiful picture of how so many different individuals work together in unity to form Christ’s body on earth. As we function in our gifts and are equipped for ministry, we also grow in maturity — becoming more and more Christlike. As we mature, we’re no longer spiritual children being tossed about by the wind — following every new fad that blows through the church or being deceived by false teachers or crafty liars. Instead, as we speak the truth in love, we “grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
It’s important to remember that all truth comes from God. When we follow Him, we have His Word that is truth (see John 17:17) and the Holy Spirit inside to guide us into all truth. The language we speak to one another can and should be marked by the truth. The truth. Not a truth. We often hear in today’s world about someone’s personal truth — allowing everyone to operate within whatever definition of truth they prefer. In reality, these “personal truths” are nothing more than opinions. We’re entitled to opinions, but we don’t all get to invent our own truths. If everything can be true, then nothing’s really true. As we grow in maturity in Christ, we can become more and more adept at recognizing and speaking the language of truth. But the recognition of truth is only one part of speaking into the lives of others. The other part is just as important, maybe more so.
When we’re focused on following Christ with all we are, everything we say and do should be motivated by love. His great love that is active in us will become active through us. We speak the truth to one another because we want the ultimate good for each other. We want to build one another up. Ephesians 4:29 describes how our language shouldn’t be corrupting, but graceful and good for building up. Jesus was full of grace and truth. (See John 1:14.) We should grow to become more and more like Him.
It sounds so simple when it’s laid out in this clear picture. So, what makes it so challenging? Why are we so apt to veer farther into truth and less into love or farther into love but back off from speaking truth? We must realize we’re human and growing in our closeness and likeness to Christ. It’s so easy to become righteously passionate about the truth but forget to communicate it in a spirit of love. This makes it tempting for the listener to miss the truth of our message because of the harsh spirit and delivery. But veering in the other direction also carries consequences. Our determination to act with love can cause us to feel too uncomfortable to tell someone things they would prefer not to hear. However, if we fail to speak truth, we can ultimately be encouraging them toward dangerous territory. Speaking the truth in love will not always be comfortable; but it’s always worth it.
A mature relationship with Christ results in love toward others; Jesus communicates this clearly to us. When we truly love others with God’s sacrificial love, we want them to know the truth because we realize God’s truth leads us to His best for us. He made the world, and He made us. He therefore knows the best way for us to live in this world. He loves us enough to impart that truth. As we become more like Him, we grow in both truth and love and in our ability to speak in equal measures of both. •
Dawn Sherill-Porter is co-founder and partner in ECHO Creative Media. For the last 20 years, she’s had some amazing opportunities to study and share God’s Word: teaching biblical Greek and Old and New Testament at Union University, as an associate acquisitions editor, and a research and editorial designer for Wayfarer Ministries. Some of her current endeavors include writing, curriculum development, speaking and teaching engagements, and creative consulting for ministry partners.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (August 2022). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.