“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.”
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.