What does it mean to speak the truth in love?

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Find out how to build the body of God up with your words.

In Ephesians 4:15 Paul uses the phrase, “speaking the truth in love”. But what exactly does he mean by that?

Today, I’m going to introduce you to three Christians who get ‘speaking the truth in love’ wrong … then let you know what Paul really had in mind when he wrote those famous words. 

Let’s start with the truth-bomber…

The truth bomber


Dave, your friend from youth group, has started to hang out with a bit of a rough crowd. In his new group of friends, people are always putting each other down. They say they’re just joking but you worry it gets too personal.  These days when Dave comes to youth, he starts putting others down and they get hurt.
 
You decide to ‘speak the truth in love’ and confront Dave. He needs to hear a truth-bomb. 

You say to Dave, “You’re turning into such a bad guy Dave. Whenever you hang out with that crowd you come back to youth group being a real jerk. Stop hanging out with them.” 

Is this really speaking the truth in love?

The wrong context confronter


You’re at school. At lunchtime you hear someone you don’t know say that they were watching some sexually explicit videos. You think they might be a Christian. 

In any case, you know that God hates those types of videos. So, you go up to them and decide to ‘speak the truth in love’. 

You say, “Hey, I heard you’ve been watching porn. You shouldn’t do that. It’s sinful.” Then you walk off. 

Is this speaking the truth in love? 

The over–accepter


You’re talking to a new friend at youth group, her name is Jane. You want her to fit in. You want her to feel like she is accepted at youth. 

Jane asks if it matters if she lies to her parents about whether she’s done her homework. You think that it’s not okay to lie… but you don’t want to offend her, and you want her to feel accepted into Christian community. 

So, you decide to tell her the truth in a loving way and say … ‘Yeah, I guess not, but I dunno for sure … maybe it’s not a big deal.’ 

Is this speaking the truth in love?

The truth bomber, the wrong context confronter and the over–accepter all have it wrong. They represent three pretty common mistakes that Christians make.   

The problem with the truth bomber

The truth bomber believes they are always in the right.

He/she knows the truth and won’t let anything get in the way of it coming out. Didn’t Jesus drop truth-bombs on the Pharisees?

The problem is, the truth bomber has no love. They’re like a noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:1) ringing out. 

Consider our friend Dave. He might be pushed away by the aggression of the truth bomber. The truth bomber might be right, but that doesn’t mean he can be so rude to Dave.  

The problem with the wrong context confronter

The wrong context confronter is good friends with the truth bomber. This person knows the truth but is not at all loving in the way they share it. 

In our example, the wrong context confronter doesn’t even know the person they’re speaking to. If they were a Christian friend, maybe it would be appropriate to confront that person. But definitely not without having a relationship with them.

The wrong context confronter is known to have massive arguments online with people they don’t know. The wrong context confronter needs to learn to have face to face private conversations. 

The problem with the over–accepter 

The over–accepter is the opposite of the truth bomber. The over-accepter is very caring and wants all people to be welcomed. But, the over–accepter often ends up not confronting anyone on anything. 

Remember the relationship between Jane and the over–accepter?

It seemed like Jane wanted to hear what our over–accepter genuinely thinks. But because of the over–accepter’s fears, neither party heard or listened to the truth. 

So what does it really mean to ‘speak the truth in love’?

When thinking about “speaking the truth in love” we need to make sure we’re checking what the Bible has to say. 

Ephesians 4:15: Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

  • Speaking the truth in love should help us grow into Christ. The context around these verses are a call to be unified in the body of Christ. To not fall down to temptation. 
  • Speaking the truth in love will only ever confront when it also seeks to unify. 
  • Speaking the truth in love is not a call to tell those outside of the church how to live.
  • Speaking the truth in love ultimately points people to Jesus. 

If your words aren’t encouraging people to grow up into Christ, you’re not speaking the truth in love. 

Living this out

Ask yourself, am I a truth bomber? Am I a wrong-context confronter? Am I an over–accepter?

Ask God for clarity. Then, pray that you would think before you speak. Pray that you would point people to grow into Christ. 

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