This is one of the ways in which we who are in Christ are to help one another become more like Christ: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We are to be “speaking the truth in love” to our fellow believers, in other words, so as to help one another “grow”.
And notice two aspects of this calling:
- we are to engage in “speaking the truth”
- and we are to do so “in love”
Now, none of us is immune to failure on either of these counts. And so I suppose that all of us sometimes fail at “speaking the truth” when we ought to; and that each of us also fails, at other times, to do so “in love”.
But I also reckon that, by nature, some of us find one aspect of this calling – or the other – more difficult.
Some Christians have the greatest trouble with the “speaking the truth” part. Maybe you are one of them. You are naturally timid. And thus you often find yourself so afraid of difficult or awkward conversations that you pull back from saying things that need to be said. Maybe you are sometimes afraid to address backsliding or sin in a fellow believer’s life. Or perhaps you are prone to shrink from correcting a fellow saint on some faulty way of thinking (v.14) which they are in danger of imbibing.
Other Christians struggle more mightily with the “in love” aspect of the calling. Perhaps you fit into this category. You are fairly assertive by natural disposition. And so, when something needs to be said, you are often quite ready to say it. Perhaps you don’t mind confronting sin, or correcting off-base theology, or tracking down a backslider. And yet you may sometimes be harsh in the way you do so.
But here’s the thing: No matter your natural disposition, you are still called, very plainly, to the task of “speaking the truth in love”! And so am I! A timid disposition doesn’t give us a free pass from “speaking the truth”; and neither is natural assertiveness an excuse for failing to do so “in love”.
And let us note that either sort of failure is a failure to love. We either fail to love by not “speaking the truth” that our brothers and sisters need for spiritual growth, or by speaking it in an unloving way!
Let us not fail one another in these ways, brothers and sisters! Let us, rather, live our lives “speaking the truth in love”.