I think my good friend, Michael Rose, hit a homer on this one. Guest blogging it here!
A famous comedian from the southern USA jokes that by simply adding the phrase “Bless her heart” to the end of a statement makes it somehow okay, no matter how harsh. For example: “That baby sure is ugly! Bless his little heart” or “Betsy sure looks fat in that dress. Bless her heart!”
We laugh, but Christian folks can say some pretty harsh things and attempt to justify it by claiming they are “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Too often, we Christians can cross the line and speak into something that is quite frankly, none of our business.
We can indiscriminately condemn others and forcefully impose our own beliefs and opinions on those who may not share our faith, or come thundering down in judgment as if we are doing God a favor by defending His honor! I am sure you’ll agree that bullying, manipulating, threatening, shunning, intimidating, being rude, condemning, etc., are not all-of-a-sudden a fruit of the Spirit under the veneer of “speaking the truth in love.” Sadly, some Christians wander around as a hammer and see everyone else as a nail. These folks have more in common with a grumpy Old Testament Prophet than with Jesus! So what are we to do with “speaking the truth in love” as found in Ephesians 4:15?
Paul is writing to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus (in modern day Turkey) about the role of the five fold ministry in helping the Church mature in faith. Verses 15 continues this theme. The NIV Bible reads:
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
The phrase “speaking in truth” is communicated by the Greek word aletheuontes. It’s root is aletheuo from alethes which means real, actual and not counterfeit. Literally, the word translates more like “truth-ing,” this is to say, it is an action, walking in truth not just speaking about truth. The idea being communicated is not one of propositional truth but a lifestyle of truth and love that is authentic. The Amplified Bible captures this well:
“Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
Interestingly, from a first century Jewish perspective, truth is not an agreement with a propositional reality rather it is a faithfulness in relationship. We “abide in the truth” by faithful relationship with the personification of truth (Jesus) not by an intellectual posture to an abstract (set of) proposition(s). There is a difference between being factually right and the truth. Truth sets people free, truth reconciles, restores, heals and makes beautiful. We can see this fruit through the life of Jesus. In the Kingdom of God the litmus test is love. To define love we need to consider our “truth-ing” in light of authentic divine love in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and Paul’s vivid definition in 1 Corinthians 13 (space prohibits doing so here).
In this light, we get an idea of what “speaking the truth in love” might look like in real life. It is my continued experience that people are loved into the Kingdom of God not bullied, shamed, argued or frightened. In real life this means serving others, being generous relationally and financially. It means genuinely loving your enemy instead of condemning them, forgiving those who hurt you instead of plotting revenge, extending kindness and mercy to people who need it, even if you think they don’t deserve it. To be honest in admitting and addressing your own sin before pointing it out in another. To be kind and respectful of those who have different faith, values and traditions than you do. Caring for the strangers, the orphans, the new Canadians, living lives of reconciliation, mercy and generosity. In doing so, we are “speaking the truth in love.”
“Preach the Gospel everyday and only if you have to… use words.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Copyright 2014. Michael Rose. http://www.iamsignificant.ca