The Other Edge of the Sword

“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)

When it comes to dealing with controversy, there are few verses more often quoted than the one above. It’s quoted so often, in fact, that I fear we are in danger of giving it mere cursory consideration instead of the thought it deserves.

Scripture is sharper than a double-edged sword, and this verse is no exception. Why, then, is it frequently treated otherwise? Judging from the way many people wield it, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ephesians 4:15 simply means “be nice.” Avoid arguments. Pipe down. Keep your hands to yourself.

But what about the truth? What about the other edge of the sword?

All too often, in our eager pursuit of unity and peace among the brethren, we forget the entirety of Paul’s statement and focus solely on the part that tells us to love. We dislike controversy, so when it appears, our first reaction is to tell the troublemaker to keep his mouth shut. “You’re being unloving,” we chide. “Cut it out.”

The troublemaker might even have a legitimate position, but we still dislike him for making things uncomfortable. “You’re rocking the boat,” we say. “Sit down and shut up.”

And when that happens, whether we realize it or not, our attitude looks something like this: To hell with the truth, so long as we can all row gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…

Of course, that’s couching it in rather strong terms, but I think I’ve made my point: it is a real (and often realized) temptation to sacrifice truth at the Altar of Peace and Unity.

Are peace and unity important? Absolutely. And what about love? Isn’t that important? Again I say, absolutely. However, if these things are not backed by the truth, what are they? What are they really?

Is that kind of “peace” really peaceful? Is that kind of “unity” really unifying? Is that kind of “love” really loving?

I think not. Without truth to back them, these things cannot exist. Better to tell a builder, “Build me a house, but don’t worry about the foundation.” Yeah. Sure. Nice going, Einstein.

I think part of the problem lies in our flawed view of what love actually means. Bibical love isn’t a sugary sweetness that coats everything in a layer of cake icing. Biblical love is grounded “in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Biblical love is ready and willing to call a spade a spade.

Don’t get me wrong: there are real troublemakers out there, just waiting to stir up dissension and strife. But what about those who do what they do and say what they say because they love the truth? Is there no place for them? Are we simply too chicken to acknowledge error if it upsets our little balancing act?

Some hills are not worth fighting for, but what about those that are? Set your feet and take a stand all alone, if no one else will join you. Fight there, bleed there, die there. But don’t budge an inch simply because you’re scared.

Will you offend someone? Probably. But is that truly what matters? Not stepping on toes? If that’s the determiner of when and where you open your mouth, something isn’t right.

Tell me which action shows greater love: telling an unbeliever that hell is their destination apart from Christ, or acting is if hell doesn’t even exist?

Truth is offensive. But truth is true. And it’s not optional.

Think about your position. Pray about your position. Examine your position in light of Scripture. If you are in error, say so and repent. But don’t violate your conscience out of some misplaced desire for peace. Remember the words of Martin Luther: “Peace if possible. Truth at all costs.”

By all means, let us speak the truth in love. But for God’s sake (and I do mean that), let it be the truth, and nothing else, that we speak.

29 thoughts on “The Other Edge of the Sword”

  1. Oh. how. true. Brilliant, Ink Slinger.

    Truth-tellers–called prophets in scripture–were always socially maligned. They deeply offended almost everyone. Should they have apologized, and “softened” their messages when people complained about being offended? Should they have backed down and said, “Let’s find some common ground here so you won’t go home thinking bad thoughts about me?” Hmm.

    That does not give us license to intentionally offend people for anything other than the sake of the gospel. Sitting in a group of peers and jeering at someone who is fat does not fulfill the mandate to speak truth in love.

    Most of the time we can find ways to speak truth respectfully, even if it is hard sayings. We do not get a permission slip to give vent to anger and pride in the process. But that is a sin of a different color. Truth is truth, no matter how offensively it may be delivered. Let’s not give the enemy an easy excuse for rejecting that truth because of any sin on our part, including the sin of not loving the recipient.

  2. Very true. It’s time to start looking at the Bible for what IT says, not what you have been told it says all your life. Good post.

  3. It’s the bullies out there who are concerned with being right rather than seeking what is right who cause some of the worst trouble. Nothing wrong with speaking truth, but there’s a big difference between using a 2×4 to bash someone’s head and jolting someone with a foam sword. Those bullies make sincere fighters of truth look bad. Great post. You and your mom have really blessed me today.

  4. Great post! There are times when I want to scream when people think love and truth are mutually exclusive. It also seems that we go to extremes when faced with disagreement IMO. We don’t want to deal with it and pretend it will go away if we sing Kumbaya and have a group hug or we pull out the napalm and start bombing. Oh for some rational, intelligent, scripture-searching discussion! Even if there is no meeting of the minds, at least iron would be sharpening iron.

    BTW, you and your mom make a great team, Ink. :)

  5. This is such a hard balance for people: either, under the guise of love, they keep quiet to avoid controversy, or, under the auspices of truth, they blast people right and left and then think the negative response they receive is persecution for truth’s sake instead of a reaction to their bombasticness. May God keep us in His Word and close to Himself so that we may keep His balance.

  6. Reblogged this on Christ Centered Teaching and commented:
    A great post by The Ink Slinger about the our struggle to strike a harmonious unity between love and truth as Christians.
    The Bible says Jesus was full of Grace and Truth.
    If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior He lives in you.
    Read God’s word to know the real Jesus personally, not just to know about Him, and you will find that harmonious unity between love and truth.
    For Jesus is the Truth.

  7. This post deserves a “double WOW” as my art instructor used to say in college. Very well written and the “complete truth”! Grace, peace, blessings and love to you young man for your sincere love of the Savior!
    :) ~streim~

  8. Thank you for writing this! I absolutely agree, one hundred percent. I see “hug-it-out” love portrayed as more important than tough love a lot lately. It’s strange to me, though, that the only ones that hug-it-out people feel it’s alright to bash are the tough love people. Otherwise, it’s not ok to judge others, didn’t you know? ;)

  9. I see the Double Edged Sword as a Weapon, with edges that cut in either direction. Offensively or defensively, to be used in Battle! That Love and Truth is what we have to defend ourselves from Evil, and to have Victory over it. Therefore I picture Jesus wielding that Sword someday, the Only One who can lift it.

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