Thursday, February 2, 2012

Speak the Truth in Love (The context)

Have you ever noticed that when someone says “I am speaking the truth in love” that it is more to make themselves feel better than a genuine sentiment? I would be more accurate to say, “You are not going to like what I have to say so I am going to say I am doing it in love to make myself feel better.” This expression is often used in relationships that have conflict. What does it mean to “Speak the truth in love”? The reference is to Ephesians 4:14-16

Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. 
I strongly believe in the context of passages that people quote from the Bible. If someone shares with me a passage and I am not familiar with the context I will go to the Bible and read the before and after of that verse. Context matters and influences the meaning of the passage. Let’s take a look at the context of this passage.

The context of this passage lists things we will be and things we will not be when we speak the truth in love. We will not be immature, tossed about, or fooled by persuasive words. We will be growing, have Christ as our head, and support each other’s growth.

What does it mean to be immature? The passage describe it as being little children. In Ephesians 14:13 it says that we will be mature. The Greek word is teleios. This word has been translated “Perfect” and I have written an article on this word in the past (see here). The idea is that maturity is a growing up into the wholeness of Christ. The flip side is one that has not grown in the wholeness of Christ. That is to say that they have been saved from sin, but scarcely more. We continue to be babes in Christ. Immaturity then is a stubborn refusal to allow God’s Holy Spirit to work in your life so that you grow into greater spiritual maturity.

One of the problems is that rather than trusting in the Holy Spirit we have come to trust in human programs and approaches. There is a tendency within the body of Christ to put more faith in the approach created by some other successful Christian than to place faith in the God that save and moved that man. There is a sort of Christian trendiness that has prevailed our approach. We tend to follow this approach for half a year or more then on to the next approach. This is usually tied to some success story about how God has worked in some other church which then led to publishing a book. This kind of approach has led to us being spiritually tossed about. Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that these approaches are bad in and of themselves. I am writing this after all and so I can be part of the latest approach that someone might take. These studies and books are helpful and can lead to growth and insight; however, spiritual maturity is measured by Christ’s fullness (Eph 14:13) not mastery of some approach or program.

There are people in the world and some in our churches who intend to take advantage and deceive us. Speaking the truth in love means that we are not fooled by these people.
“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 (HCSB) 
We are called to be peaceful and caring, but not naive.

We will be growing if we speak the truth in love. There is a humility that comes from the realization that we are all on this road of becoming the thing that God wants us to be. To grow we must die to self.
“I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. John 12:24 (HCSB) 
We will have Christ as our head if we speak the truth in love. Specifically if we are growing in the Christian walk then it is “into Him who is the head—Christ.” Christ controls our actions and reaction as a member of the church body in the same way that our mind/brain controls our action and reactions.

We will be fit together to promote each other’s spiritual growth. In this way speaking the truth in love becomes healing, restorative, redemptive and effective. If my goal is motivated out of a genuine interest for the wellbeing of the other person then my words will be thoughtful and caring. Thoughtful and caring words lead to growth of the other.

In short the context of “Speaking the truth in love” needs to be central in consideration of what that phrase means. If we avoid immaturity, keep from being tossed about, use discernment for persuasive words, are concerned for our personal growth, we seek Christ’s leadership in our lives, and have a heart for helping others grow in the Lord then we are in a position to “Speak the truth in love.”

My next post will focus on the practical aspect of communication in Speaking the truth in love.
Enhanced by Zemanta