July 24, 2017

Speaking the Truth in Love

Ephesians 4:11-16

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.

—  Ephesians 4:15

This verse is sometimes quoted as an excuse by people who feel they must speak the truth to someone—and yet they fail miserably to do so with love. Instead, their thoughtless, harsh way of talking to others hurts feelings and leaves gaping wounds in their relationships. Paul isn’t giving us license to do that. He’s encouraging Christians to speak truthfully and lovingly, without intimidation or manipulation.

Sometimes, surely, “speaking the truth in love” involves confronting and rebuking when correction is needed. Jesus himself said as much in Revelation 3:19: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” But Paul also cautioned young Timothy, whom he had appointed pastor of the church at Ephesus, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father” (1 Timothy 5:1).

Sometimes uncomfortable words have to be spoken, but they must be said in a loving way. If no one talks about an obvious problem, it will remain lurking in the background, like the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Such situations must be handled with love and care, asking for the Lord’s guidance every step of the way.

Lord, we know how necessary love and sensitivity are when confronting ­others and asking for change. Make us guileless in our speaking. May we be loving, humble, respectful, and truthful, not hurtful or manipulative. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — George Young

George Young, a native New Yorker, worked as a taxi driver in New York City before studying to become a pastor. Then he, his wife Ruth, and their children were missionaries for many years in northeastern Japan. They worked with ministers and believers from the Reformed Church in Japan to spread the good news of salvation in Christ and ­establish new churches. Now George and Ruth are retired and live in the northeastern United States, nearer to their children and grandchildren.

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