“Dani, you do not treat me with the respect I deserve.”
No one had ever called me down like this. I was sitting with the director of the college ministry over which I presided. It was a private meeting – just the two of us.
And after going over several items of business, she moved on to this. Me.
But it wasn’t an angry meeting. Even hurt, her voice was completely overflowing with love for me. She was correcting me, but not in self-defense. She sincerely wanted my good personally and in service to Christ.
Years later, I am thankful for her and that meeting each time I remember it.
God has been drilling the book of Ephesians into me recently. A friend is teaching through it in her podcast. Our small group at church has been going through it the last few weeks, and my dear husband has been playing the audio version in the car to help us prepare for class discussions. Our pastor even preached from the book last Sunday.
Last week we arrived at a familiar passage: “speaking the truth in love.” Unfortunately, speaking truth often comes from a place of condesention instead of love. So imagine my surprise when I realized we stop short in the verse when we “speak the truth in love.” The verse goes on:
But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head —Christ.Ephesians 4:15
This passage starts with the word “But.” When we look back, we see that it comes on the heels of a description of “overseers” — that is apostles, prophets, evangelists. pastors, and teachers. These overseers are given to the body of Christ so that we aren’t deceived by false teaching.
Instead, we speak the truth in love… so that the body may grow into Christ.
A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak
“Choose your battles.” My mother tried to impart this wisdom to me as a child, but it hit home sometime after having children.
If my kid wants to wear the same 3 shirts each week and cowboy boots with his shorts, but take joy in dressing himself, so be it. If my husband leaves pairs of socks throughout the house that he was “just about to put on” before he forgets and grabs another pair, but he bathes the kids and loves me well, release the held-in sign and go on.
I’m joking here (a little). but the lesson rings true. Not ever battle is worth fighting. Not every battle adds more value than it takes away.
There are important doctrinal and theological issues worth standing up for. There are mistakes work addressing and correcting. But before we speak the truth in love, we should stop to consider if it needs speaking.
Does it help you, the other person, and the body of Christ grow into Christ? If not, keep quiet. Ponder the matter for your own edification, but don’t do more harm that good.
It is true that “wounds of a friend are trustworthy,” but make sure we are wounding to set a bone, not amputate an healthy arm.
Before we can speak truth in love, we must love.
As I pondered Ephesians 4:15, my thoughts went to 1 Corinthians 13 (as did the teacher’s next to me). The Bible translates multiple words into the English with love. The one used in both passages however is the same: agape. It’s the same word used to describe God’s unconditional love for us.
If we speak in love, and 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love is, then this passage is a checklist to bridle the words by looking at intent.
. . .
Love is patient. Am I speaking out of anger or frustration? Am I walking alongside this person on this journey?
Love is kind and is not jealous. Do I have this person very best interests at heart, or merely my own comfort and preferences? Am I placing their interests above my own? Is there any jealousy of this person in my heart?
Love does not brag and is not arrogant. Am I listening to hear or to respond? Am I speaking from a desire to tell my story or make myself known?
Love does not act unbecoming. Do my words and attitude give glory to God?
Love does not seek it’s own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered… Am I offended? If so, am I offended for me or God? Am I snapping back at someone trying to goad a response? Was I slighted? Am I seeking vengeance?
…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. Am I speaking truth? One hundred percent? or my opinion? Am I gloating over this person’s failure?
Love bears things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Am I viewing my brother or sister in charity- thinking the best of him and assuming the best of his motives? Am I looking at him with hope for change? Am I shrugging off the little things?
When my director corrected me, her heart was prepared. I believe she had examined her motives to come from a place of love and that she spoke to me so that I would grow in Christ for the good of my heart, the ministry, and the church to the glory of God.
Love never fails.