Speaking the Truth in Love

Okay, maybe I’ve been reading ThinkChristian too much lately, but they just found a very good quote on the Radio Bible Class web site which needs to be widely voiced. The salient point of it is that “Truth spoken without love is devastatingly harmful. Love expressed without truth is tragically misleading.” This is an important balance that most of us find hard to practice but which Scripture encourages us to fulfill by Jesus’ example and Paul’s teaching. Truth and love don’t contradict one another but it seems so difficult for us to blend the two. It seems easier for us to convey one to the exclusion of the other when both are required. Why is that? Is it a product of our fallen nature? All I know is that it takes a lot of grace to overcome this tendency in myself. I’ve been thinking about what kind of person it takes to consistently blend these characteristics in his or her relationship to others.

It takes a loving and truthful person, of course, but most of all it takes a person who can receive truth when it is spoken to him or her; even if it is not spoken in love. Receiving love is easy. Hearing the truth about ourselves often isn’t. Aside from being shy or being afraid to give offense, this is why we are afraid to speak the truth to others, even in love. Doing so implies that we are open to the same treatment and basically we’re not. But, to be a follower of Jesus, I think we all need to grow in this particular grace, both the giving and the receiving. They can nurture one another. If you are on the receiving end, take it to heart. If there is truth in it, accept it and grow with it. If not, practice the love part and forgive your offender using the offense as an opportunity to speak the truth in love. Trust God that with practice it will become more natural and we will become more christlike.

There’s a popular idea that you have to earn the right to speak into a person’s life this way. It’s good advice. Don’t try speaking the truth in love with strangers or even friends and family members unless you have developed a close and trusting relationship with them or circumstances require it. I’ve broken this rule once or twice in recent memory and lived to regret it. But then, do we also expect others to observe this rule with us? Why not turn it on its head where we are concerned? Don’t demand that other’s earn the right to speak into your life. Let them have the chance to lose it (if they abuse it) instead. We could follow David’s example in 2 Samuel 16:5-14. He surely wasn’t getting any love from Shimei, but he didn’t let that get in the way of the possibility that he was getting truth from him, offensive as it was. It takes great strength of character for a king to be this humble. David wasn’t called a “man after God’s own heart” because pursuing the heart of God was easy. How far will we go to have the heart of God?

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