Speaking the truth in love is a piece of scripture from Ephesians 4:15 that makes me cringe whenever I hear it because it makes me think how it has been misused by others. The imagery that comes to mind is someone slashing another with a long, sleek sword with the word LOVE beautifully scrolled on it. It’s a weapon that can kill from a distance, allowing the swordsman the opportunity to escape while the wounded is left to whatever ends. My observation and experience is that this scripture seems to be interpreted in a way that gives the person speaking license to expose another without much reflection on their motive, because they somehow think the act of telling the truth is love. For me, it is one thing to expose someone’s faults and/or explain what God’s word says about such things but what really saddens me is the presumption of the supposed truth-teller that they are doing it… in love. If I don’t have the right motives and a pure heart, speaking the truth in love, when I actually am not, may only prolong, if not sabotage, the restoration of ones relationship with God which is the intent of this passage. If the hearer(the sinner) realizes that the truth which I proclaimed to have spoken in love, was not actually done with love, then the validity and sincerity of all that I say may be called into question and anything further I say will hold no value to the hearer. I know this from first and second-hand accounts and the damage can be far-reaching and long-lasting. I can speak for my husband and I that there are a few people who claimed to speak the truth in love, but love was not found. We were greatly hurt. Until reconciliation occurs, their words are nothing more than the creaking of a rusty gate.
Speaking the truth in love does not give me freedom to say what I want nor should it be seen as a favor I am doing for someone headed the wrong way. It’s not a way to flaunt my spiritual maturity or to prove a point. I am not to do it with hidden delight, private agendas, with eagerness, in judgement, in defense of someone, with pride, or for vengeance. What then should our motive be?
While reading Matthew 18 I came across a passage that speaks on forgiveness and I feel it also applies very well when speaking truth in love. Verse 33 reads “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” Compassion. Yes, compassion is a form of love that relays pity, humility, an understanding of someone’s physical/mental/spiritual/emotional state either because I may have been there myself or I know in some capacity what they are experiencing. I feel compassion also helps create the urgency needed to confront another with God’s Word in order to help them out of their current situation. Several accounts through the New Testament tell of Jesus having compassion on a person therefore He healed them. He also recognized the weary and wandering that were before Him, like sheep without a shepherd, and had compassion for them. Also, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, He asked God to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross for they didn’t know what they were doing. He had compassion on them. He knew what awaited them if they didn’t change their hearts.
So, with a humble heart I implore my brothers and sisters in Christ to speak the truth out of compassion. The same compassion Christ had for those who nailed Him to the cross because He knew they were their own worst enemy (outside of Satan). And if you must speak truth, whether subjective or objective, and you cannot do it with real love, at least have the courage to not say… you are doing it in love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3