Several years ago when I was part of a church singles group, I ended up at a table with one of the small group leaders’ girlfriends. She was much younger than me. In fact, I had known her in high school back when I had been a leader, but I knew this kid as something of a troublemaker. How she ended up dating a much-older guy, I don’t know, but as we sat at the table talking, she started offering me life advice.
I remember thinking it was funny. Ironic. This girl didn’t really know me, and she felt it was her place to give me advice about how to live my life. And she wasn’t wrong. She didn’t say anything to me or suggest anything that wasn’t true. I just had no reason to listen to her.
Today’s verses are Ephesians 4:14-15.
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
It’s good to be able to recognize truth when you hear it, regardless of who speaks it, but some days it’s difficult to hear anything but lies. On those days, you need people in your life who will tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it. We need truth-speakers—today more than ever before.
But it’s astonishing how upsetting the truth can be. The truth cuts to the bone. It stings and burns, and my first response to pain like that is to get away from it. That’s where love comes in.
If someone who loves you is speaking truth into your life, you’re less likely to pull away, even if it hurts, because you know deep down inside that they have your best interests in mind.
So how to you speak truth with love? It’s a process, honestly, and if you already have a reputation for being harsh or uncaring, you have some work to do.
First, you have to be wise. You can’t be confident that you even know the truth until you seek after true wisdom with everything you have. That means you’re reading the Bible, you’re pursuing a relationship with God, and you’re following Jesus.
Second, you should have a relationship with the person you’re talking to. They should know the real you. You shouldn’t just run up to a stranger and shout the truth at them. That alienates people faster than anything else. Instead, a friend will hear God’s words from the mouth of someone who loves them.
And if you’re in a place where you have to speak to a crowd, you should be living in such a way that people recognize your character. People should be able to listen to you speak and hear the person you are inside. Sure, you may be speaking the truth, but if your manner of speaking the truth is offensive, no one will listen.
If you speak truth without love, you’re more likely to push people away than to draw them closer. And you certainly won’t draw them to Christ. Instead, you’ll drive them toward the people who spread sweet lies.
Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean you have to compromise, but it does mean you need to check your own heart and attitude before you step into a position of authority.